NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 28, 2004

In the past decade, the Food and Drug Administration has approved several new chemotherapy drugs that extend survival rates for patients with colorectal cancer. However, doctors and patients now have to weigh the potential benefits of such drugs against their enormous costs.

For example:

  • An eight-week regimen of two new cancer-fighting drugs, irinotecan and cetuximab, costs $30,790 but only lengthens the median survival time by 1.7 months.
  • Eight months of front-line chemotherapy followed by 4.1 months of irinotecan-cetuximab therapy will cost the average patient $161,000.
  • The costs for an eight-week course of initial treatment for the 56,000 patients diagnosed with colorectal cancer each year would be about $666 million.

And those cost estimates do not include the administration or storage of such drugs.

Overall, the near-doubling of the median survival time achieved over the past decade has been accompanied by a 340-fold increase in drug costs for those initial eight weeks of treatment.

Source: Deborah Schrag, "The Price Tag on Progress--Chemotherapy for Colorectal Cancer," New England Journal of Medicine, July 22, 2004.


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