We are living in a moment when many of our most promising medical advances are far out of reach for the vast majority of people who could benefit from them. And nowhere is that truer than for cancer immunotherapy, the fast-moving field of cancer treatment.
Getting a cancer immunotherapy treatment costs more than a house in many cities in the US, more than putting a few kids through private college. The average cost of cancer drugs has increased from $50,000 per patient in the mid-1990s to $250,000 today. That’s four times the median US household annual income.
Immunotherapies in particular often cost more than $100,000 per patient. Doctors now use immunotherapies in combination with chemotherapy, which means those costs can quickly double or triple. For some of the newest immunotherapies, the price tag is even steeper: When you include the value of the medical support necessary to deliver these treatments, a price tag of $850,000 per patient is not unheard of, according to Ezekiel Emanuel, a professor of medical ethics and health policy at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.
In terms of cost, Novartis’ CTL019 stands out. Novartis’ CTL019 is administered in a single treatment, which will cost US$475,000.