Health insurers waste some $3 billion yearly buying cancer medicines, much of which is discarded because the drug companies in the United States make available many of these medications in vials that contain far too much medicine for most patients. The excess is then thrown out. How do we know? Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center just published a new research study on the waste and eye-popping manufacturer profits.
And yet in Europe, where the government often takes a heavy hand to control abuses, the medicinal vials are sold in three sizes to prevent the waste. (Some non-cancer medicines also use the “waste” factor to grab the profits.) For example, Velcade, a drug for treating multiple myeloma and lymphoma, produced by Takeda Corp., is estimated to have 30 percent of its profits accrue from discarded waste.
Figure some $309 million in current, U.S.-sized medicine gets reduced by $261 million if there were a vial 2.5 milligrams rather than the standard 3.5 milligram that the U.S. has to work with. Sloan Kettering researchers preach that nurses, who generally inject the drug, would save patients thousands of dollars by minimizing waste. Yes, many smaller patients pay huge amounts for medicine they never receive.
“Rising drug prices have been a concern for many years, and high initial prices and subsequent increases are an industry-wide phenomenon. The last 10 cancer drugs approved before July 2015 have an annual price of $190,217, and major drug companies routinely increase the prices of big sellers 10 percent or more each year. This is, of course, far above the rate of inflation,” said Christopher Kelly a spokesman for the Food & Drug Administration.
The drug industry explains that high prices are needed to fund research. Well, industry leaders like Pfizer and Merck spend just 17 percent of their revenue to find new drugs.
Why bother… just throw away the “mandatory excesses!”