Washington Post

The inexplicable and relentless rise of cancer drug prices

The $10,000-a-month cancer drug has become the new normal, to the dismay of physicians and patients who increasingly face the burden of financial toxicity. A pair of new studies illustrates just how recently that pricing model has come into vogue and pulls back the curtain on the strange market forces that push prices steadily higher in the years after the treatments are launched.

The first study, published in JAMA Oncology, examined 32 cancer medications given in pill form and found that their initial launch list prices have steadily increased over the years — even after adjusting for inflation. The average monthly amount insurers and patients paid for a new cancer drug was less than $2,000 in the year 2000, but soared to $11,325 in 2014 …

A study published in Health Affairs on Monday then examined what happened to two dozen cancer drug prices after launch and found that pharmaceutical companies on average increased prices 5 percent above inflation each year …

The findings highlight the often mind-boggling ways that drug prices behave. Launch prices for cancer drugs have soared over time; after launch, those prices also increase steadily, despite competition from other treatments and even as the drugs are used by more patients.

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