Prescribe by Price, But at What Cost to Patients?

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In recent months, there has been increased discussion about the cost and value of cancer care. These conversations are important, but it’s crucial to make sure the patient’s unique perspective on value isn’t lost in the mix. We must also be sure we are considering each patient’s unique diagnosis, as well as the heterogeneity of their disease.

It is clear that targeted therapies play an important role in delivering personalized care to patients, and in particular, those with many forms of cancer. A recent article in Newsweek profiled a patient who, through a new tumor identification method, was able to receive a highly-targeted treatment for his sarcoma. As noted in the article, “the slow and steady march of innovation in our understanding of cancer and the emergence of companies providing personalized treatments have not only saved Rose’s life but allowed him to turn his cancer from a death sentence into a chronic illness that simply needs regular managing.”

These stories are becoming more common, yet as new targeted treatments work through the regulatory pathways, we are faced with ongoing questions: How do we ensure patients have access to these life-saving drugs and the diagnostics used to select them? And how do we ensure the system incentivizes research and development broadly, so more people benefit from personalized medicine?

Recently, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) announced that it will be developing a scorecard, slated to come out this fall, to evaluate cancer drugs based on their cost and value, as well as their efficacy and side effects. This signifies a potential shift in the way that physicians make decisions about their patients’ health, encouraging them to consider the financial implications of interventions alongside patients’ needs. As this framework is developed, it will be important to ensure that the full value of innovative interventions is recognized.

Scientific advances have the potential to provide earlier and better diagnoses, more effective treatments and even possible cures for patients. Personalized approaches to care could provide a patient with more or better quality time to spend with their family or friends, and overall greater long-term value.

As Edward Abrahams, president of the Personalized Medicine Coalition told The Washington Post, these targeted treatments also bring a greater long-term value to the healthcare system as a whole by cutting down the frequency of unnecessary treatments and procedures, and avoiding unnecessary side effects.

Still our continued focus must be on providing high-value care and creating a system that improves patient outcomes and does not place the focus on prescribing drugs based on cost or financial incentives. The Personalized Medicine Coalition, along with the American Association of Cancer Research and Feinstein Kean Healthcare, continues to engage the cancer community to address these questions of cost and value through the Turning the Tide Against Cancer initiative.

Through ongoing dialogue and discussion as part of this initiative, two key themes continually resurface as components that should be considered when defining value: advancing approaches that are patient-centered, and developing new approaches to value assessment that align with and incentivize scientific progress and innovation.

On October 9, 2014, the Personalized Medicine Coalition, the American Association of Cancer Research and Feinstein Kean Healthcare will re-convene the cancer community in Washington, D.C., for a second Turning the Tide Against Cancer national conference to advance the conversation on the value and cost, while supporting a shift to patient-centered cancer research and care.

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