Published on March 13, 2018
“This report proposes balanced solutions aimed at growing a robust pipeline of innovative cancer drugs and ensuring they are accessible to and affordable for those who need them.”
That’s the top-line recommendation to the President of the United States released today from the President’s Cancer Panel. I was honored to be a part of that panel as one of only two patients out of 26 representative of academia, government, pharmaceutical companies and the insurance industry attending the meetings, and I was the only attendee on active cancer treatment.
Although much of the report focuses on drug prices, as a patient depending on new and innovative treatments myself, I am pleased that the Panel also shares our optimism.
“Innovations in cancer therapy, particularly the development of targeted drugs and immunotherapies, hold remarkable potential to transform treatment of the disease. Increasingly, a new generation of cancer drugs is producing durable remissions and, potentially, cures.”
That’s an important assessment. As a patient I don’t want to be so focused on cost that we lose this potential. The Panel understands the tension between the value of these new therapies to patients and the need for patients to be able to afford them.
So let’s begin with the broadest recommendation, that all parties to the healthcare system must work together: “drug developers and manufacturers, policy makers, government, public and private payers, healthcare institutions and systems, providers and patients.” Let’s look at some of these:
Pharmaceutical Companies: Pricing should be aligned with the outcomes provided. That is, we can pay more for the drugs that are worth it. The Panel acknowledges that there is no broadly accepted value framework in the United States to determine what is “worth it,” and that’s challenging. It will require input from the entire healthcare field. But as a patient, I am pleased the recommendations state, “understanding the patient benefit must be central when assessing value.”
Furthermore, pricing based on outcomes has already begun. At Patient Power, we reported at the beginning of this year that the manufacturer of one very expensive gene therapy will provide rebates to patients when the drug does not work or when the results are not maintained.
Health Insurance: the Panel says this is a key factor in ensuring drugs are affordable to patients. “As health insurance access has expanded, fewer Americans report forgoing needed drugs because of cost. Future policies should support, not undermine this progress.”
Doctors and Hospitals: Current payment models that pay based on the amount of services provided, may encourage caregivers to prescribe and administer more than the patients may need. Recommendations from the Panel suggest alternative payment models be developed to support “high quality, cost efficient care.” Reward efficacy and efficiency, rather than paying doctors and hospitals based solely on the amount of services they deliver.
There are also: Recommendations to invest more in the National Institutes of Health as well as making a commitment to scientific research by nonprofit organizations, and the biopharmaceutical industry itself. Recommendations to assure that the FDA can efficiently assess cancer drug safety and efficacy. And recommendations to assure that patients are given a full understanding of their disease and treatment options so each patient and family can select the treatments that are, “aligned with their needs, values and preferences.”
Those are my key take-aways from a top-line summary of the report. Some people may agree with these recommendations. Others may think they don’t go far enough. But I think we all can agree on the objective of the Panel’s report: “To help us reach the ultimate goal of ensuring that all patients receive the treatment they need and experience the benefits these remarkable drugs can offer.”
As always, I welcome your comments and your own story of financial and drug access battles. Write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-Founder, Patient Power LLC
Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.
Your site is AWESOME! Thank you all so much for this incredible resource to families who are in crisis/affected by cancer.