Doctors troubled by rising costs of cancer-fighting drugs

NEW YORK (PIX11) – Dr. Leonard Saltz, Chief of Gastrointestinal Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, is sounding an alarm in New York Magazine.

“Many of these new expensive drugs don’t work well enough by themselves, so they’re given in conjunction with other drugs.” said Dr. Saltz.

“If you have a drug that costs $100,000 or $125,000 per year and then you find you have to give it with another drug that costs that amount, you’re quickly getting into a quarter million dollars in therapy for an individual patient, and again just the cost of the drug,” said Dr. Saltz.

With a diagnosis of cancer, it’s not just the drug costs that a patient has to incur.  There are CAT scans, blood tests, hospital costs, doctor costs and more.

At Gilda’s Club, a non-profit named for Gilda Radner who passed away of Ovarian cancer in 1989, the cost of cancer is a concern for many patients who seek out their support group services.

“I think every member who is diagnosed with cancer really is faced with so many issues and financial is one of them. Insurance is another,” said CEO Lily Safani.

Safani knows all too well about the heartbreaking, and often times unfair choices people dealing with cancer have to face.

“It is more than just paying for the treatments. It’s also making sure you’re getting the right treatment. Are you asking the right questions when you go to your doctor?” said Safani.

Dr. Saltz said he’s seeing a troubling situation only getting worse.

“Everybody who looks at the situation refers to it as an unsustainable rise in drug costs,” said Saltz. “I worry that we reach a situation, our health care system hits a breaking point, where all of a sudden the people who need medicines can’t get them.”