UNDATED (AP) - Cancer patients, brace yourselves. Many new drug treatments cost nearly $100,000 a year, sparking fresh debate about how much a few months more of life is worth.
The latest is Provenge, a first-of-a-kind therapy approved in April. It costs $93,000 a year and adds four months' survival, on average, for men with incurable prostate tumors. It's also in short supply, forcing the first rationing of a cancer drug since Taxol and Taxotere were approved 15 years ago.
At the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, doctors plan a modified lottery to decide which of its 150 or so eligible patients will be among the two a month it can treat with Provenge. An insurance pre-check is part of the process to ensure they financially qualify for treatment.
Dr. Christopher Logothetis is chief of prostate cancer research at M.D. Anderson. He says Provenge and other experimental cancer vaccines in development need "a national investment" to sort out their potential, starting with Medicare coverage.