Sloan Memorial's Saltz: Scare Patients By Posting Prices

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  • 04/07/2008
Is Leonard Saltz of Sloan Memorial more interested in attacking drug companies or caring for patients...Rather than pushing insurance companies to cover new cancer drugs, Saltz has devoted time decrying the price of new medications. And now he has taken his ideologically driven campaign to a new low, scaring patients into choosing a treatment based on price. In doing so, Saltz provides an example that even someone with no background in oncology should find shocking and a signal to stay away from Saltz as a treating physician: (From the Pharmamarket Newsletter)

"One example given was for metastatic colon cancer, where the price differential is $60,000 for a treatment course, depending on which of two drugs a patient is prescribed. According to Leonard Saltz of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, the cheaper generic drug, irinotecan (previously marketed as Campto/Camptosar), causes hair loss. However, he adds that the more expensive agent, Sanofi-Aventis' Eloxatin (oxaliplatin), can cause nerve damage to hands or feet. Depending on one's professional occupation one or the other drug might be easier to accommodate. However, in cases where a patient is concerned about using up savings that might otherwise be left to dependents, the ASCO guidelines are intended to allow for an informed choice with the assistance of a specialist.
Dr Saltz argues that the logical result of such a change in approach must be to have more price transparency, at least so that specialists are able to provide patients with the necessary data."

Where to begin? How about that the two drugs are used in combination in many cases. Or that pharmacogenetics suggests one drug is better than the other. Or clinical trials suggesting longer survival with Eloxatin? Does Lenny Saltz suggest making that information transparent.

Or how about making this information transparent instead of scaring people about prices:

"Since 2005, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) and individual drugmakers has approached the problem by matching nearly five million patients with free drugs in cases where there is an inability to pay (Marketletters passim). "

I will talk Saltz seriously when he speaks out strongly against huge cancer drug co-pays, particularly when genetic tests indicate a drug works....Until then, I would avoid him, both as a source of policy advice and cancer care.

Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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