Cancer Drug Spending Tops $100 Billion, Up 10% in a Year

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As drug prices continue to fall under ever-increasing scrutiny, spending on cancer medicines has hit a new milestone: $100 billion in 2014.

That's up more than 10 percent from 2013, and up from $75 billion five years earlier, according to a report published Tuesday from the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics. Targeted therapies, which take aim at specific drivers of cancer, now account for almost half of total spending, IMS said.

And as more new cancer drugs get approved, spending is likely to accelerate. The compound average growth rate on cancer medicines in the last five years has been 6.5 percent globally, according to IMS. The research firm predicts that rate to be 6 percent to 8 percent through 2018.

Forty-five new drugs for cancer hit the market between 2010 and 2014, including 10 last year alone, IMS said. Two of those are so-called immunotherapies, a hot new class that harnesses the immune system to fight cancer. They are Opdivo from Bristol-Myers Squibb and Keytruda from Merck. Both are priced at $12,500 a month.

But with those high price tags come significant improvements in outcomes. IMS notes two-thirds of Americans diagnosed with cancer now live at least five years, versus just more than half in 1990.


-- Meg Tirrell