In a bit of good news this week, the National Institutes of Health reported that the overall cancer mortality rate continues to decline. The report is viewed as a positive indicator that cancer research is working. But we know that research comes at a cost. In 2017, cancer drugs were a top drug trend driver – spending rose by 17.4% and reached $70 per member per year.
Despite the approval of 15 new cancer drugs in last year, the increased competition did not result in lower prices. This year promises more of the same with a robust cancer drug pipeline in place. We may see as many as five cancer therapies approved by the FDA this summer. Longer term, all eyes are on chimeric antigen receptor (CAR) T cell therapy, a form on immunotherapy, which can cost close to half a million dollars.
The already high and increasing costs for cancer therapies pose a significant financial risk for employer health plan sponsors.