Doctors who treat prostate cancer are pleased to have new drugs that seem to extend the lives of their patients by several months. The medications include Provenge, Jevtana and Zytiga. While it is encouraging that these compounds can prolong survival, patients and doctors are looking askance at the price. The maker of Provenge charges $93,000 for a course of treatment, and Jevtana runs approximately $50,000. Zytiga costs $5,000 or so per month. Medicare and private insurance companies are deliberating over whether to cover these medications.
Doctors are also enthusiastic about new medications such as Xgeva that keep prostate cancer from spreading into the bones. It appears that in the future prostate cancer will be treated with a combination or a series of medicines. The new approach to treatment will be able to offer some men a new lease on life, but may be financially out of reach for others.
[American Society of Clinical Oncology annual meeting, June 5, 2011]

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  1. Will S
    Reply

    A few months ago I received the Provenge series of infusions. Having castrate resistant, #9 virulent prostate cancer that has metastasized to lymph nodes and bones, I was well qualified for the treatment. As to cost, I am uninsured and make less than $70k a year and thus received the treatment at no cost.
    It is true that projected extra survival is the only effectiveness measure they have–yet, and it was enough for the FDA. I am one of the youngest at 59 to get the treatment, and in good health otherwise–which of course is not true of other recipients who indeed and in general much older. Therefore I hope the likes of me gets years rather than months should the “vaccine” work. No idea yet–one weakness of the field is that there is no monitoring protocol other than PSA–other than “not dead yet!” and pain levels.

  2. STEVE
    Reply

    Yesterday or so I just read in a newspaper that medicare has approved coverage for Provenge. Now in the current financial situation of our country and with the government saying they are cutting back on medicare how are they going to manage that?

  3. MMtexas
    Reply

    I just read in the newspaper that this $93,000 treatment only prolongs life for 4 months! And Medicare has agreed to pay for it. This is ridiculous. At a time when politicians are crying out that we must reduce Medicare costs, how can we possibly justify an expenditure like this?

  4. Morton N.
    Reply

    “Several months?” Nothing is said about the quality of life during those several months. Sometimes a more accurate description would be prolonging dying. Can you address this issue? I wouldn’t like to spend those extra months in a hospital bed, even if at home under hospice.

  5. MR
    Reply

    One might better know how to react to this expensive scientific advance if there was information about how much good it did on average — are we talking about spending $100,000 to prolong someone’s life by a month or two? With what quality of life likely during that time? Yes, if it’s someone you love, no amount may be too great for an extra day — or an extra two months of grandpa’s life may deplete the grandkids’ college fund, or raise the insurance costs in years to come for all families in a small employers pool.
    These are awful, unanswerable questions but at least a bit more information would help understand what’s at stake, what, for the moment, the scientific advance actually consists of.
    PEOPLE’S PHARMACY RESPONSE: THESE ARE EXCELLENT QUESTIONS. AT THE MOMENT, THE FULL PICTURE OF BENEFIT FROM THESE DRUGS ISN’T CLEAR. IT SEEMS, THOUGH, THAT THE ADDITIONAL SURVIVAL MIGHT INDEED BE MONTHS, ON THE AVERAGE, RATHER THAN YEARS. USING THEM SERIALLY MAY STRETCH THAT TIME TO A YEAR OR TWO.

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