Trump's cancer panel says urgent action needed on rising drug costs

Trump's cancer panel says urgent action needed on rising drug costs

A White House advisory panel on Tuesday called for urgent action to address the rising cost of cancer drugs.

“Cancer patients should not have to choose between paying for their medications or paying their mortgages. For so many, it is truly a matter of life and death,” said Barbara Rimer, chair of the President's Cancer Panel, which advises the president on issues related to cancer policy.

“This is a national imperative that will not be solved by any one sector working alone.”

Cancer drugs can enter the market with a price tag of more than $100,000 a year, meaning thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs for patients. The White House panel noted that the prices of many drugs don't reflect their value or health benefit.

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"While high prices may be warranted for drugs that significantly extend survival and/or substantially improve quality of life, higher prices are not appropriate for drugs that do little to improve outcomes," the panel said.

The panel urged President TrumpDonald John TrumpEx-ethics chief calls on Trump to end 'monstrous' migrant policies Laura Bush blasts Trump migrant policy as 'cruel' and 'immoral' US denies report of coalition airstrike on Syria MORE to support policies that propose "sustained, predictable funding" for government agencies that work to provide affordable access to innovative cancer drugs. 

The panel also recommended the administration promote pricing of drugs based on the potential value to the patient, stimulate competition in the generic drug markets, ensure the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has appropriate resources to assess cancer drug safety and efficacy, and invest in research to develop innovative, high-value cancer drugs. 

But the White House advisory group did not offer specific steps or actions for the administration to take. 

The Trump administration unveiled modest proposals to bring down drug costs, including ones that would put a cap on out-of-pocket spending for enrollees in Medicare's prescription drug program and cut Medicare payments to remove an incentive for doctors to prescribe higher-priced drugs.

As a presidential candidate, Trump said he would allow the government to negotiate drug prices for Medicare beneficiaries, but so far no action has been taken on that front by the administration.

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, who also served in that department under George W. Bush, has indicated that he doesn't support those measures.