Innovative Anti-Cancer Vaccine
The costs for it are very high, and as a result, the health-care experts have started to be concerned. They believe that the vaccine is way too expensive for most of the people, and that the majority of prostate cancer patients can not afford to buy it. However, the people who have used the vaccine say that they do not care about the money. Bob Feutz, 84, of Redmond, Washington, who is suffering from this disease, stated that surviving is more than anything. Feutz first received the anticancer vaccine in 2007. He had battled with the illness for many years prior to receiving it, but the efforts were useless. He performed 38 sessions of radiation, but even so, the tumor continued to grow. He suffered a lot because of the side effects of the disease, but that all changed when he started to use Provenge.
The main benefit of Provenge is that it has no side-effects, and that is very effective. He had to take the vaccine for three times, and the only side-effects he experienced were minor chills. The PSA levels, which indicate the presence of prostate cancer in the body was 5 before the treatment. After the treatment he took the same test and he observed that the PSA levels dropped to .69. Feutz stated that he is very happy to be alive, even if he had to pay for all that money. Frank Notaris, a 77-year-old Brooklyn native has the same opinions about the drug. He stated that if the drug can keep him alive, as he is also a cancer patient, then it was worth all the money.
Notaris did not have to pay entirely for the vaccine, because the insurance covered the rest. There are thousands of patients like Feutz and Notaris who could benefit from the treatment, and as a result the health policy experts are concerned. Mitchell Gold, president and CEO of Dendreon, the company that produces Provenge stated that it took them more than 15 years to produce the vaccine. They had to constantly improve the technology behind it, in order to make it effective. He stated that they had to pay up $1.2 billion in order to develop the vaccine, and that they do not feel that the price which they ask for the treatment is too high.
Gold stated that his company does not ask more money for the vaccine, than the regular treatment costs. The price of Taxotere, which is the chemotherapy drug for advanced stage prostate cancer patients, costs about $23,000 each month. They set up almost the same price for Provenge. He believes that the Provenge vaccine is much better than the traditional methods of treating cancer. Provenge is taken only three times each month, and the side effects are minor, as the patient can resume his daily activities the following day. In the case of chemotherapy the things are different because the patients feel much worse afterwards, as they suffer from nausea, fatigue, and many other side effects.
Many people are concerned about the fairness of the company, but David Howard, assistant professor in the department of Health Policy and Management at Emory’s Rollins School of Public Health says that fairness has nothing to do with it. In most of the cases involving cancer patients, the treatment is covered by insurance, which means that the patients do not have to pay anything for it.
As a result, the companies which design the drugs do not have to answer to the budgets of the consumers when they are setting the prices. Howard says that the companies know what they are doing, and how to set up the price. The companies are aware that if they would ask a very high price, then the insurance would not pay for it, so they always set prices which are covered by the insurance. They raise the price each year, but only with a certain percent. Each year the people are making a fuss about the price of the drug, but the fact is that the drug from last year had almost the same price.
All the money is paid from the Medicare funds, and that can leave a mark on the economy. It is believed that by the end of 2010, more than 200,000 people will have been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Not all of them will be eligible for receiving Provenge, but thousands of them will. Currently, Medicare can not refuse to pay for the treatment of a patient because of the price, but it is believed that they will have this power in the future. The costs are too high for them, and as a result they might be able to choose their patients. The Congress will have to impose new laws and regulations in order to prevent this from happening.
Some Medicare providers already cover Provenge, but the majority of them stated that they need a year in order to analyze the vaccine better. Howard believes that the providers did this because of money, and not because they needed to make sure that the vaccine is not harmful.
Dr. Anna Ferrari, professor in the Department of Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center, says that the vaccine is worth all the money, because of the results it has. She believes that prolonging the life of the patient, even if with only a few months, will make an enormous difference for him. Unlike chemotherapy that attacks all the cells in the body in order to attack the diseased ones, Provenge boosts the immune system of the body, and as a result the body can attack on its own the infected cells.11