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Cost of Fighting Melanoma Mounts

The first of a promising new class of cancer drugs went on sale in Japan this week at an average annual cost of $143,000 a patient, a harbinger of hefty prices the new drugs are expected to command in the U.S. and Europe in coming months.

The drug Opdivo, is a so-called PD-1 inhibitor, a new type of drug that harnesses the body's immune system to fight tumors, including melanoma. Doctors and drug makers say PD-1 inhibitors represent a significant advance in cancer treatment—particularly in melanoma—because they have produced relatively high rates of tumor shrinkage and patient survival in clinical studies. PD-1 inhibitors have shown potential to improve treatment for other types of tumors, including lung and bladder cancers.

Some U.S. pharmaceutical analysts have estimated the anti-PD-1 drugs would cost more than $100,000 a patient a year. A standard duration of treatment hasn't yet been established, but some patients in clinical studies have received them indefinitely as long as they were doing well.

Merck has declined to say how much it plans to charge for its PD-1 inhibitor drug, pembrolizumab. A U.S. FDA decision on pembrolizumab for melanoma is due by Oct. 28, but could come sooner, possibly within days, according to people familiar with the matter.

Skin Cancer's alarming increase in the US, and the world, creates a terrible dilema for families caring for victims of this insidious disease. Insurance companies "limiting" of lifetime funding for fighting disease will force a choice: Fight the disease and ruin the family finances or let the disease take it's course.

Even worse, our kids will face even higher costs as drug companies continue to push prices to new highs.

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