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Is New Cancer Drug Worth the Price?

Will the new cancer drug Xpovio work well enough to justify its extremely high price tag? Oncologists are also worried about dangerous side effects.
Is New Cancer Drug Worth the Price?
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The FDA has just approved a new cancer drug to treat multiple myeloma. This blood cancer affects the white blood cells that would normally make antibodies. Although there are treatments for multiple myeloma, many lose their effectiveness over time. Strictly speaking, the FDA approved this new cancer drug only for a select group of patients. The agency specified hose whose multiple myeloma is progressing despite having tried at least five other treatments.

What Will This Medication Cost?

The new cancer drug is selinexor. It will carry the brand name Xpovio and is expected to cost $22,000 a month. Scientists affiliated with the manufacturer included 83 people in the trial. In the study, they paired selinexor with the powerful steroid drug dexamethasone. This may be used alone or in combination with other medications to treat multiple myeloma. According to study results, selinexor reduced signs of multiple myeloma about one-fourth of the time. However, this study design is far from ideal for scientists to determine efficacy.

Side Effects of the New Cancer Drug Xpovio:

This cancer treatment is controversial. Before the FDA approved it as a last-ditch therapy, an outside panel of experts voted against approval. Some experts believe that approval was premature. These are primarily cancer specialists serving on the FDA’s Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee.

According to the committee briefing document, roughly 90 percent of patients had at least one serious or life-threatening side effect from the therapy. These included significant drops in white blood cells, red blood cells, platelets and neutrophils. Sodium levels may also plummet. Patients complained of serious fatigue, fever, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea or constipation and loss of appetite.

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
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