Cancer drug spending to leap at least 34%

Cancer care advances. So does the cost of treatment. U.S. spending on oncology drugs could grow by 10 percent per year through 2013, Medco Health Solutions has found, partly because patients are using drugs for longer periods of time as treatments for chronic illnesses rather than terminal care.

Cancer spending should grow by 10 to 12 percent this year, Medco says, and by 13 to 15 percent in 2012. Besides the evolution of chronic cancer care, drugmakers have been focusing on oncology as a potential growth market, and that focus is expected to bear more fruit soon. "New cancer drugs reaching the market are expected to double during the next several years," said Medco Chief Medical Officer Glen Stettin, as quoted by Reuters.

Needless to say, one reason why spending is growing is that cancer drugs are expensive. Medco found that more than 90 percent of newly approved cancer drugs cost more than $20,000 for just 12 weeks of treatment.

And with cancer drugs growing more and more targeted, their specialized nature will help insulate them from competition, Medco said. Makers of biosimilars won't want to copy older drugs when more personalized treatments are available. And that means prices can remain high.  "Everyone is going to be moving to these more advanced, more precise drugs...there's not actually a big demand to create the old ones," Medco CEO David Snow told reporters (as quoted by Reuters). "So I don't think you'll see a lot of relief in the oncologic space because of the enormous improvement in the ways we can treat cancer at a genetic level."

- check out the Medco release
- get the story from Reuters

Special Report: Fastest growing therapeutic classes (by sales)