Prostate Cancer Drugs

prostate cancerThere are new drugs on the horizon – new prostate cancer drugs. There are two things that make them remarkable. For one thing, they can actually make life far easier for men in very advanced stages of prostate cancer. They help arrest the disease so well that people in this state can actually expect to live longer. The other remarkable thing about them is how much they cost. Each prostate cancer patient can expect to spend a half-million dollars for the full course. When they actually become available, it is estimated that they’ll earn billions of dollars for the pharmaceutical companies that make them.

These drugs, with names like Zytiga and Provenge really are coming; the FDA has already approved these. According to urology experts, at no time in the past has treatment for prostate cancer had this much hope. And perhaps, at no time have things looked so rosy for the drug companies. Johnson & Johnson and Sanofi, two drug companies behind these drugs are looking forward to a billion dollars in sales each.

Granted, these new products do things that older prostate cancer drugs never could accomplish; they can take a person for whom hormone therapy has completely failed and whose cancer has spread beyond the prostate gland, and they can not only arrest the progress of the disease, they can take the pain away. But at what cost?

Using the old prostate cancer drugs like Docetaxel, a person suffering from advanced prostate cancer could have this life extended by about a year or so. With these new drugs, such a person could expect to live an additional year. Since most people with prostate cancer are on Medicare, one wonders how the government is going to afford hundreds of thousands of dollars for each patient.

Concerned with the cost of these new drugs, Medicare has just completed a study into them and allowed that it will pay for them. But there will be rationing. They will only allow prescriptions that are strictly according to label. The same goes for private insurers as well.

So why exactly are these drugs this expensive? Were they really that expensive to develop or are they expensive to manufacture? The reason the drugs are expensive is that drug companies are opportunistic, trying to hold 30,000 Americans who die of prostate cancer every year to ransom. For instance, the drug company Algeta and its partner, the German chemicals giant Bayer, at first decided to sell Alphadrin, their version of the drug, for $25,000 a course. But then they found out that another drug company was selling their version, called Jevtana, for $50,000 of course. And right away, they decided to jack their prices up to match.