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Should the Government Pay for Costly Cancer Therapies; Debate Reignites Over New Drug


Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Government officials are reviewing Provenge, a costly new vaccine for treating prostate cancer that's stirring debates about whether cost should be considered when drugs are approved by federal health care programs, according to The Washington Post.

Provenge, approved in April, cost about $93,000 per patient and can extend a patients’ life up to four months.  The new cancer therapy is under review just as the Food and Drug Administration considers a withdrawal of approval for Avastin, another costly treatment meant for metastatic breast cancer.

For Medicare, Medicaid and the FDA, cost is not supposed to be a factor in determining approval or coverage.  However, the costly nature of these treatments has caused some alarm by officials, prompting the launch of a formal examination.

“At some point, if we keep paying these very high prices for treatments that provide very limited benefit, we’re going to reach the point where we can no longer afford health care,” Alan Garber, a Stanford University professor of medicine and economist, told The Post.

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