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Cost of new cancer drugs a concern

Posted - Sep. 7, 2004 at 1:40 p.m.



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PORTLAND, Ore., Sep 07, 2004 (United Press International via COMTEX) -- New cancer drugs are so expensive some doctors are making the price part of their talks with patients, the Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

While more successful than earlier cancer drugs, the cost of these new pharmaceuticals could put them out of reach of those who need them most.

Iressa, a lung cancer drug, costs about $1,800 a month and patients can be on it for years. The much talked about Erbitux, used for advanced colorectal cancer, runs $18,000 to $30,000 for a seven-week course, and may be continued for months if successful.

Craig Nichols, chairman of hematology and oncology and associate director of the Oregon Health & Science University's Cancer Institute in Portland, said he now raises the issue of drug costs when discussing a patient's therapeutic options.

"I would be remiss to recommend a therapy that would bankrupt someone without telling them the cost," the paper quoted him.

Paradoxically, insured patients are hit hardest because poor, penniless or uninsured patients can apply for free drugs offered through patient assistance programs run by many drug manufacturers.

Copyright 2004 by United Press International.

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