Study Says High-Cost Cancer Drugs Have Little Benefit, Strain Health System

"Crunching data from published studies, the authors found that treating a lung-cancer patient with Erbitux, a drug that costs $80,000 for an 18-week regimen, prolongs survival by only 1.2 months," the Wall Street Journal reports. The study, which estimates that the life of each American who dies or cancer could be extended by one year at the cost of $440 billion, was published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.

The high cost and relatively low benefit points to "one of the thorniest questions facing lawmakers working on the overhaul of the U.S. health-care system": reducing growing health care spending in the last months of patient's lives. "Some countries, like the United Kingdom, agree to pay for expensive drugs only if they meet a certain threshold of efficacy, but no such rationing exists in the U.S.," the Journal reports.

"While some policy experts consider the rationing of health-care resources inevitable in the quest to control medical spending, many Americans have long resisted putting the collective fiscal good over their individual health" (Johnson, 6/29).

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