This means your children and grandchildren are now saddled with even more of the financial burden of the excesses of this generation.
It came as no surprise that Medicare approved the new prostate cancer drug Provenge. It had to. The laws governing Medicare say it has to cover all therapies that are reasonable and necessary, no matter the cost. (Technically this approval goes into effect in about 90 days.)
Provenge is indicated for men with advanced (metastatic) prostate cancer. It costs $93,000 for a treatment and is a vaccine that helps the patients immune system fight the cancer better. How well does it work? It was shown to increase median life expectancy by four months. There are no claims of increased cures.
I saw one estimate it will cost Medicare $1 billion per year. That seems optimistic to me. If we assume every Medicare patient who dies of prostate cancer (27,000 per year) is given this drug, the drug cost alone works out to $2.5 billion per year, and that doesn’t include the treatment costs of the patients’ other medical conditions and related expenses such as nursing home costs.
Could a 95-year-old man with metastatic prostate cancer, severe heart failure, emphysema, and dementia receive this drug? Of course he could. There is nothing in the approval to withhold the drug from any patient with the indicated disease. Additionally with new technologies there is often indication creep. The drug is approved for one use but independent physicians, often under pressure from patients and families, use their “clinical judgment” to prescribe the drug to patients with less widespread disease, hoping it will make a difference.
Clinical judgment means there are no studies to tell us if patients with lesser disease actually benefit from the drug. Those doctors are just guessing.
The continued lack of courage of this generation to deal with healthcare costs directly has once again been exposed. At this rate, this habit will come to an end when America goes bankrupt and the Chinese own us.
Write your Congressperson and tell him or her to say no to over-priced drugs. Maybe this will be our moment to head the country to a place that resembles fiscal responsibility. Every journey starts with the fist step, but we have so far to go.