To quote myself and colleagues in JAMA Internal Medicine:
Among the drugs approved on the basis of response rate, there was only a weak correlation between cost and the magnitude of the response rate gain; the same was true in the categories of drugs approved on the basis of PFS and OS gains. This suggests that cancer drugs are priced based predominantly on what the market will bear. Correcting this trend is vital for the solvency of health care and pharmaceutical development.
The following caveats apply:
- We looked at median wholesale price, not the retail price. Wholesale cost is what the drug companies think their products are worth. Retail price is what the markets think they are worth. But there are such things as anchoring and, as the accompanying editorial nicely reviewed, the biggest players on that market Medicare and Medicaid are forbidden by law to bargain.
- We only reported overall survival (OS), progression free survival (PFS) and overall response rate (ORR). We looked at other things as well, like mechanism of action and how novel the drug is, which will be reported separately.
- We only looked at the last 6 years of approvals.
- We only looked at cancer drugs.
But if you are a medical student or a resident and want to do some important work while buffing up your CV, feel free to copy our methods and apply them to other areas of medicine! Something like this for cardiology or endocrinology would do a whole lot more good than yet another case report of something presenting as something else.