A grass-roots petition to improve the affordability of cancer drugs is gathering signatures—and stories—after being posted online in early March.
Two weeks in, nearly 4,000 people have signed the petition asking President Barack Obama, HHS and members of Congress to protest against high cancer drug prices. That's because, according to research cited in the petition, the average price of cancer drugs has risen from $5,000 to $10,000 annually in 2000 to more than $120,000 a year today.
It's a statistic with which Dr. Hagop Kantarjian, chair of the department of leukemia at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, is all too familiar. After hearing from patients that they couldn't afford the out-of-pocket costs associated with these expensive drugs, Kantarjian became an outspoken advocate of controlling their prices.
His solution? Have patients put pressure on the White House and other elected officials to implement certain strategies that could bring the costs down to more reasonable levels, while still allowing pharmaceutical companies to profit. One of the proposed methods is to allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices with pharmaceutical companies, a privilege that doesn't currently exist. Another is to allow cancer drugs to be imported across borders.
Those are moves that Kantarjian and supporters of the petition—many of whom cite personal struggles to cover the costs of their own cancer drugs—say could save lives, particularly since one in three Americans has a lifetime chance of developing cancer. In 2014, about 1.6 million new cancers were diagnosed, according to the American Society of Clinical Oncology (PDF).
And that number is expected to rise in the coming years. Backers of the Change.org petition are just hoping drug costs don't continue to grow with it.
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