Patients put a high value on cancer meds--and on hope

There's been a lot of debate about new and expensive cancer drugs. How much is 6 extra months of life worth? A year? The U.K.'s cost-effectiveness agency tries to answer this question with mathematical formulas and quality-of-life estimations. In the U.S., payers may look askance at pricey drugs--and set up various hurdles to their use--but generally, Americans expect access to the latest drugs.

Patients and their families approach the whole question from a more personal angle, of course. And, not surprisingly, their estimations of value are quite different from those the cost-watching regulators come up with.

As Pharmalot reports, one recent study found that patients valued treatments for advanced cancer at 24 times their cost, on average. For example, the average cost of treatments for metastatic colorectal cancer was $10,775 a year, but patients said they would have paid $251,567 for it. (Where they would find that $250,000 is another question.)

Another study found that cancer patients wanted the chance to take risks with their treatment. If asked to choose between a treatment guaranteed to prolong their lives by two years and a treatment that offered a 20% chance at four and a half years, 71% of melanoma patients would choose the riskier bet. Breast cancer patients were even more willing to gamble: 83% would give up 18 months of guaranteed survival for a 10% chance of living four or more years. And these risk-taking patients said they would pay an average of $54,000 to take those chances.

- read the Pharmalot piece

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