Saturday, March 5, 2016

Wasted Cancer Drugs?

According to a New York Times article, a recent study claims that billions of dollars are being wasted every year on expensive cancer drugs because some drug companies package the drugs in just one vial size. The study's analysis is based on the fact that a vial is used only once and then thrown away for safety reasons. If not all of the contents of a vial is used (as is likely with a smaller patient) the rest is wasted. According to the study, if the drug companies would just produce several sizes of vials, this waste (and lost money) could be prevented.

While I understand that some cancer drugs are being wasted, I challenge the study's conclusion that a lot of money could be saved if the drug companies just produced vials in different sizes. The notion that drug companies price their drugs based solely on the cost of producing the drug is just plain false. They price their drugs based primarily on how much profit they think they have to make to recoup the nearly billion dollars they spent on drug development and advertising. The price of producing the drug is minimal compared to that. If you asked a drug company to package a drug in several different vial sizes so all of the drug in a given vial would be fully used, in all likelihood they'd just change their prices so that their overall income from the drug remained nearly the same.

I'm not against having cancer drugs available in different-sized vials (and doses). But it might mean that larger patients would pay more than smaller patients, for the same cancer treatment. Is that fair? Think about it.

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