Originally published October 20 2008
High-Priced Chemotherapy Treatments Bankrupting Families for a Few Months of Low-Quality "Life"
by David Gutierrez, staff writer
(NaturalNews) The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) will soon encourage doctors to discuss the financial costs of chemotherapy as one of the side effects that patients should consider in deciding which treatment to proceed with, or whether to use treatment at all.
Many cancer patients know that they cannot be cured, but use drugs to seek a longer and higher quality life for the time that they have. For these patients in particular, the cost of drugs can be an important factor. Dr. Leonard Saltz of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center points to two different drugs for metastatic colon cancer, one of which costs $60,000 more than the other.
The more expensive drug does not cause hair loss, but can cause damage to hands and feet. While these alternate side effects are normally discussed with patients, many doctors feel uncomfortable discussing cost.
"These are awkward discussions," Dr. Allen Lichter of the American Society of Clinical Oncology said. "At least we can bring this out in the open."
Saltz also points to a pancreatic cancer drug that costs $4,000 per month, but only extends survival for an average of a few weeks.
"Is it a good investment, a high-risk investment, or buying a lottery ticket?" he asked.
The price of cancer drugs is rising at a rate of 15 percent per year, in particular as new and expensive biotechnology drugs hit the market. Some of these drugs may cost $100,000 or more for a course of treatment.
Not all drugs are created equal, and doctors need to be honest with patients about this, said Neal J. Meropol of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia and head of the panel writing the new ASCO guidelines.
"Chemotherapy is a fraud," said consumer health advocate Mike Adams. "Its main purpose is not to save lives but to generate profits for the drug companies. In order to protect these profits, the FDA and FTC routinely discredit safer, more natural and more affordable cancer cures that really work," Adams said.
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