The types of prescription drugs and their prices have changed over the years. Revlimid is just one of the very expensive drugs for cancer. About 1.5 million Medicare recipients were eligible for catastrophic benefits in 2019, often with thousands of dollars in bills. Many are pooling funding by applying for foundation grants, running GoFundMe campaigns, or refinancing their homes. Researchers have developed a whole area of research on “financial toxicity” that worsens the health of cancer patients.
“Patients are giving up vacation, they are giving up retirement, they are giving up what they can buy at the grocery store — it’s just tragic,” said Craig Cole, a hematologist who treats myeloma patients and an assistant professor at Michigan State University. When he diagnoses a patient with a disease, he always invites the patient to meet with a social worker to discuss how to pay for the medicine. “You have cancer, and yes, you can induce cancer remission. But you have to live with the specter of financial toxicity. “
Pharmaceutical companies say their high margins allow them to invest in research into new therapies and treatments that can be financially risky to develop. Most industry researchers agree that the less lucrative pharmaceutical sector will have fewer new drugs in the future, although they disagree on how few. The Congressional Budget Office has calculated that a drug pricing system like the one adopted by the Democratic Chamber in 2019 will mean about 30 fewer new drugs over the next decade, or about 10 percent.
“The real fear is that you will see venture capital in the small biotech industry run dry because the risk has increased significantly,” said Laurie Reilly, chief operating officer of the PhRMA industry group. “Honestly, the biggest impact is on patients who expect someone to develop therapy for them or someone they love.”
Patients and doctors who work with multiple myeloma also experience this tension. Revlimid may increase life expectancy, but myeloma is still a fatal disease for most patients. It is hoped that the cure of the future will become the real cure.
The position of the budget bill in Congress
While he supports the push for price controls, Dr. Cole also said, “I fear what if we do too much?”
Bristol Myers Squibb defends Revlimid’s high price tag, citing its great health effects and the company’s ongoing research in the treatment of myeloma. “Revlimid’s value is demonstrated by its significant contribution to improving the survival rate of patients with multiple myeloma,” said Caitlin Craparo, a company spokesman. She said in a statement that the company is supporting efforts to reduce costs for patients.