–by Jonas Hines

The New York Times reported this weekend about a newly-approved cancer drug, Folotyn, for a deadly blood cancer. The catch? It costs about $30,000 per month. Per month. Oh, and it did not prolong life expectancy for patients (though it did shrink tumor size) in the trial that led to its FDA approval in September.

And, as the Times reported last month, the cost of drugs is on the rise—nine percent last year, the highest rate of inflation since 1992. Big Pharma says, predictably, such hikes are necessary for the research of novel drugs (such as Folotyn?). Interestingly, last time major legislation that could impact the cost of drugs was on the table –in 2006 with Medicare Part D– the cost of drugs went up, too.  Is this ramp up simply in anticipation of health care reform legislation? One thing is for sure: The cost of health care is only going up as long as we are using $30,000-a-month drugs to shrink tumors.

As for the drug maker’s take on the cost of its drug? The Times reports: “Mr. Caruso [CEO of Allos Therapeutics, who makes Folotyn] also said the price of Folotyn was not out of line with that of other drugs for rare cancers. Patients, moreover, are likely to use the drug for only a couple of months because the tumor worsens so quickly, he said.”

In other words, because the drug doesn’t prolong life, the exorbitant cost is self-limited.

Jonas Hines is a medical student in New Mexico and a member of the American Medical Student Association. Previously, he held a fellowship at Public Citizen in Washington D.C.

PostScript is a group blog, and a forum for many different opinions on prescription drug issues. The views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of Community Catalyst or of other PostScript authors.