Cancer treatment costs rise to nearly $50 billion a year in the USA - huge profits for cancer industry

Saturday, October 23, 2010 by: David Gutierrez, staff writer
Tags: cancer industry, profits, health news

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(NaturalNews) The amount of money spent on cancer treatment has nearly doubled in the past two decades, according to a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study published in the journal Cancer.

Total cancer treatment costs increased from $24.7 billion in 1987 to $48.1 billion in 2001-2005, the researchers found. This paralleled the rise in overall health care costs, suggesting that cancer treatment did not become more expensive in that time.

In 1987, cancer accounted for 4.8 percent of all health care spending. In 2001-2005, it accounted for 4.9 percent.

Over the same time period, however, cancer-related inpatient admissions dropped from 64.4 percent to 27.5 percent of cases. This suggests that the drop in more expensive inpatient care has been offset by cost increases in other areas.

The researchers attributed the increase in cost to increasing cancer prevalence, an aging population and, paradoxically, higher survival rates leading people to be on cancer drugs longer.

"Our society's very success in simultaneously increasing income and medical care and the length of life of the population is driving up the cost of healthcare far more than efficiency measures seem able to keep pace with," said Daniel P. Sulmasy of the University of Chicago, who was not involved in the study.

Some researchers hailed the study as evidence that cancer drug costs have not increased as much as is popularly assumed. Yet in the time period studied, prescription drug spending for both out-of-pocket payers and patients with private insurance increased as a proportion of overall cancer costs. More significantly, the most controversially expensive cancer drugs have been introduced in the last four years, a period not covered by the study.

The majority of new cancer drugs approved since 2006 cost more than $20,000 for a 12-week course.

"I believe oncologists need to be aware of the cost and discuss this with patients," lead researcher Florence Tangka said.

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