Bernie Sanders has been taking on billionaires (and Wall Street), but now he’s setting his sights on another target: unaffordable cancer medications.
On his personal Twitter account, the candidate for the Democratic nomination recently tweeted out his support for affordable healthcare. Sanders tweeted that a single pill of a lifesaving cancer drug costs $750. He went on to say that access to affordable healthcare is a human right, and that part of that is lowering the cost of unaffordable medications:
Just one pill of a lifesaving cancer drug costs $750! Access to health care is a human right. That must include affordable medication.
— Bernie Sanders (@SenSanders) 12 May 2016
On this issue, it appears that Sanders’s claim about the high costs of cancer drugs is true. In fact, some cancer treatments cost even more than $750 per dose. One recently approved cancer treatment cost $120,000 for four doses, which works out to $30,000 per dose! For some people, that is the same or more than their entire annual salary.
Healthcare costs for patients are not only increasing, but the percentage of bankruptcies due to high healthcare costs rose sharply to 69.1 percent in 2007, indicating that the problem is getting much worse.
One analysis on the high costs of cancer drugs found that there are multiple factors that can contribute to the high prices. For instance, research and development costs for pharmaceutical companies can be quite high, necessitating a higher cost for any drug treatments developed.
However, the researchers also found that many pharmaceutical companies have almost a “monopoly” over their cancer treatments and face very little competition, which allows them to charge more. As well, since patients need cancer drugs, they are willing to pay whatever it takes, even if it bankrupts them or causes them to go into severe debt.
The authors of the analysis believe that some changes could help make cancer drugs more affordable. These include national guidelines to help patients choose more cost-effective treatments, as well as new rules that prevent drug manufacturers from having monopolies and increase the competition they face.
While he’s currently not likely to become the Democrat’s nominee, if Bernie Sanders does end up becoming President, we may see lower cancer drug costs in the near future.
Siddiqui, M. R., et al., “The High Cost of Cancer Drugs and What We Can Do About It,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings, 2012 Oct; 87(10): 935–943, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.mayocp.2012.07.007.