Immunotherapy Drugs – Costs and Effectiveness

In his presentation at the 2015 ASCO [American Society of Clinical Oncologists], Dr Leonard Saltz broke down the cost of immunotherapy drugs:

Opdivo costs $28 per mg of drug, whereas Yervoy costs $157 per mg. Yervoy costs 4000 times more than gold!

In the latest trial, the cost of using Yervoy alone was $158,282 to get an extra 3 months. The cost of Opdivo alone was $103,220 for an extra 7 months.

The cost of the combination was $295,566 for an extra 11.5 months

Patients on Medicare, and those whose insurance requires a 20% co‐pay, will have to pay $60,000 out of their own pocket for 1 year of this treatment.

There’s another immunotherapy drug approved for melanoma last year called Pembrolizumab. The brand name is Keytruda and it currently costs around $14,500 per month. Right now it’s being studied on 20 different types of cancer, and has shown anti‐tumor activity in 13 tumor types like small cell lung cancer, esophageal cancer, and ovarian cancer. But the latest clinical trials are using a dose that is 5 times higher than what was approved for melanoma, and costs about $83,000 per month. Yes, per month. For a 165lb (75 kg) patient, Keytruda at the higher dose (26 doses per year at $51.79 per mg) will cost over 1 million dollars per patient per year.

Opdivo for lung cancer

Opdivo was approved in March to treat squamous non‐small cell lung cancer. Researchers at ASCO 2015 presented results of a study using it on non‐squamous non‐small‐cell lung cancer. The late‐stage study showed that patients receiving Opdivo had a median overall survival of 12.2 months, versus 9.4 months for patients taking chemo drug docetaxel. Adverse effects were also less severe. Again, we’re talking about the median, so half the patients lived over 12 months, half of them did not. Comparing the two median patients, one got an extra 3 months of life from a $100k therapy.
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