It seems as though we are seeing more news reports lately on the rising cost of cancer drugs—specifically targeted therapy drugs. Some are even going as far as to ask cancer patients and survivors to sign a petition in hopes of lobbying Congress so that government officials can negotiate lower prices with pharmaceutical companies.
When it comes to targeted therapy drugs, skin cancer treatments outpaced treatment costs for other types of cancer—although with the ongoing FDA approvals these days for targeted treatments, this may fluctuate.
We have seen a steady increase in the number of patients diagnosed with melanoma and other forms of skin cancer over the years. Between 2002 and 2006, the number of patients treated for skin cancer rose from 3.4 million to 4.9 million (2007 to 2011); that's an increase of 44%. When compared to other types of cancer, the number of non-skin cancer patients treated increased by 32%.
According to a report published in the January 2015 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, the average annual cost to treat skin cancer has increased 126.2%, from $3.6 billion during 2002 to 2006 to $8.1 billion ($3.3 billion for melanoma and $4.8 billion for other skin cancers) during 2007 to 2011. Treatment costs for other forms of cancer during this same time frame increased by just 25.1%.
The treatment cost for targeted therapy drugs for melanoma can cost over $100,000 annually, and depending on insurance coverage and deductibles, this may be out of reach for many patients.
So what's driving up the cost for skin cancer treatment?
While genetic predisposition and other uncontrollable circumstances will inevitably cause cancer in some folks, taking measures to help reduce our overall risk is imperative—and the costs that go along with it.
Many people—especially in the US—fail to take UV protection seriously. The need to have bronzed skin is a societal norm, but unfortunately, that norm has increased skin cancer statistics significantly over the years.
Of course the lack of skin cancer preventative measures is not the sole reason for the rising cost of skin cancer therapies, but it may be a contributing factor—the demand is there. Skin cancer has become a public health crisis.
Will reducing our skin cancer statistics help drive down some of the cost of targeted therapy and immunotherapy drugs?