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Cancer drugs: Too expensive to compare?
Modern Healthcare

The prices of some cancer drugs are so high that they preclude researchers from conducting trials comparing their effectiveness, according to two National Cancer Institute researchers. A task force of clinical oncologists, meanwhile, is working on an algorithm for making such comparisons.

The NIH researchers, who penned a newly published perspectives piece for the New England Journal of Medicine, compared the brand and generic versions of two prostate cancer treatments and estimated it would cost nearly $70 million in drug costs alone to do a trial.

It costs $500 to $700 per month to treat a patient with ketoconazole, a generic medication for prostate cancer, compared with $7,000 per month for Johnson & Johnson’s Zytiga (whose generic name is abiraterone acetate). Insurers and government health programs would save more than $1 billion a year if just half of the patients who die of prostate cancer each year in the U.S. could be treated with the cheaper version, the authors said.