Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center gastrointestinal oncologist Leonard Saltz figured what the cost would be of cancer drug Avastin, which extends survival a median of 42 days, if survival were extended to a year. The cost was $303,000 for a year of life saved, before adding in the costs for the other chemotherapies with which Avastin is given, as well as health care providers, medical equipment, facility expenses and other costs of providing care. He did a similar calculation when Zaltrap was approved and neither he nor his colleagues could find compelling justification for using the drug. This article explores the factors driving the rising and potentially unsustainable cost of cancer drugs.
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