Petition to Reduce the Costs of Cancer Medications

 As complaints grow about exorbitant drug prices pharmaceutical companies are coming under pressure to disclose the development costs and profits of those medicines and the rationale for charging what they do. (1)

Pharmaceutical cost transparency bills have been introduced in at least six state legislatures, aiming to make drug companies justify their prices, which are often attributed to high research and development costs. The preamble of a bill introduced in the New York State Senate in May, 2015, declares: “If a prescription drug demands an outrageous price tag, the public, insurers and federal, state and local governments should have access to the information that supposedly justifies the cost.”

 More than 100 prominent oncologists call for support of a grass-roots movement to stem the rapid increases of prices of cancer drugs. They call attention to the following facts:
1) Cancer drug prices are increasing at an alarming rate, which is causing harm to patients. (2)
2) Prices have increased more than tenfold between 2000 (average price $5,000-$10,000 per year) and today (average price of new cancer drugs exceeds $120,000 per year). (3)
3) The average price of cancer drugs is increasing by about $8,500 a year. (4) The average household income today for a family of four is $52,000, down 8% from a decade ago. (5)
4) Even patients with insurance have out-of-pocket expenses of 20-25%. (6) Since each American has a 1 of 3 lifetime chance of developing cancer, every one of us is at risk of being unable to pay for the prescription medicines that will control and cure our cancer. This could force many families to decide whether to pay $25,000 a year for one cancer drug, about half the household income, or forgo the treatment to save the money for other necessities.
5) The high price of cancer drugs is causing harm by shortening the lives of patients who cannot afford the treatment. (7) This is an injustice that creates differential treatment conditioned by financial status. (8)

These oncologists have prepared the following petition:
      We request that our President, the Secretary of Health and Human Services, and all Members of the United States Congress, consider our petition and protest against high cancer drug prices by implementing the following strategies:

  • Allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices by removing all current legal restrictions;
  • Allow Medicare to have the same right to negotiate drug prices as the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs now enjoys;
  • Allow the importation of cancer drugs across U.S. borders, for personal use. Prices in Canada are sometimes close to fifty percent less than what we pay for the exact same cancer drugs in the United States;
  • Enact and sign into law new federal legislation that prevents drug companies from delaying access to generic drugs (“Pay-for-Delay”) and extending the life of drug patents (Patent “Evergreening”);
  • Create a post FDA drug approval mechanism/organization/group/concerned parties (that include the strong voice of patients and their advocates) to estimate/propose a fair price for the new treatment based on its value to patients and health care;
  • Allow organizations such as the PCORI (the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute, a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization located in Washington, D.C., created by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act) to include drug prices in their assessments of the value of drugs and treatments;
  • Request nonprofit organizations that represent cancer specialists and their patients - such as ASCO, ASH, ACS, LLS, and NCCN - to develop guidelines to incorporate prices of drugs relative to treatment value.
  • In the United States, all cancer patients must have immediate access to affordable prescription drugs in order to save their lives. The measures as outlined above will allow market forces to work in favor of lower cancer drug prices. This will provide all cancer patients with equal access to the best treatments now available and will be fair to both the cancer patient and to pharmaceutical companies.

 To view and sign this petition, please click here.

 2. Kantarjian H., Rajkumar, S.V. (2015) Why Are Cancer Drugs So Expensive in the United States, and What Are the Solutions? Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 90 (4): 500–504.
3. Kantarjian, H., et al. (2014) High Cancer Drug Prices in the United States: Reasons and Proposed Solutions. Journal of Oncology Practice. 10 (4): 208-211.
4. a) Howard, D., Bach, P., Berndt, E., Conti, R. (2015) Pricing in the Market for Anticancer Drugs. Journal of Economic Perspectives. 29 (1): 139-162; b) Silverman, E. (2015) High Prices for Cancer Drugs Are Set at Launch: “It’s Where the Action Is”. Wall Street Journal Pharmalot. January 21.
5. Household Income in the United States. Wikipedia.
6. Gould, E. (2015) Increased Health Care Cost Sharing Works as Intended. It Burdens Patients Who Need Care the Most.
7. Kantarjian, H. (2013) 119 Collaborator Experts in CML. The price of drugs for chronic myeloid (CML) is a reflection of the unsustainable prices of cancer drugs: from the perspective of a large group of CML experts. Blood. 12 (22): 4439-4442.
8. Kantarjian H. (2014) Relevance of the Hippocratic Oath in the 21st Century. The ASCO Post.  5 (16).


                            Task Force for Integrative Cancer Prevention and Therapy

A task force of 180 scientists from prominent institutions in 22 countries was assembled by a Canadian organization Getting to Know Cancer. (1)   Interdisciplinary teams were formed that recommended low-toxicity phytochemical approaches as potential candidates that could reach a broad-spectrum of priority targets in most cancer types and improve patient outcomes.

The task force advocates an approach to therapy that is low cost, because many of the latest cancer therapies are deemed unaffordable in low-to-middle income countries. 

Combinations of a significant number of non-toxic chemicals, many of which can be found in plants and foods, may help treat advanced and untreatable cancers and also address the problem of relapse. (2) While current therapies have achieved modest successes in some cancers, significant problems remain with most approaches to treatment.  In particular, many newer targeted therapies are extremely expensive, highly toxic and not effective for rare types of cancer and advanced cancers.  Even when they appear to work, a significant percentage of patients experience a relapse after only a few months.  Typically advanced cancers are untreatable and relapses occur when small subpopulations of mutated cells become resistant to therapy. Physicians who try to address this problem with combinations of therapies find that therapeutic toxicity limits their ability to stop many cancers.