CMPI shares call to action for a cancer free world by 2050
By Mia Burns
The Center for Medicine in The Public Interest has launched the Value of Medical Innovation initiative that advocates advancement in patient-centered innovation and transformational change in how society develops and uses new cancer treatments. The CMPI cites a cancer free world by 2050 as its goal and is leading a partnership of patients, researchers, advocacy groups, and innovators to achieve this objective. Associate Web Editor Mia Burns interviewed CMPI’s VP and VOI founder, Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., to further discuss the importance of medical innovation and the impact that it has on individual lives and society as a whole.
Q: What type of feedback has the Value of Innovation Clock received?
A: We have had an overwhelmingly positive response to the Life-Years-Saved Clock. It's a good benchmark for measuring progress against cancer and demonstrating that if we speed up development of new cancer medicines and the value of medical innovation, we can save more life years faster.
Q: According to the site, “During the height of the AIDS epidemic, it took only 2 years from the time an HIV treatment was discovered to the time it was approved by the FDA.” Why do you think that the FDA has not applied the same accelerated approach to cancer drugs?
A: HIV drug approval was a response to public pressure and to the fact that people with AIDS started testing medicines themselves through what were known as community trials. Today, cancer researchers, companies, and regulators use randomized clinical trials. They take years and people die waiting for results. Cancer patients need to band together to force a change in practice and ultimately take charge of research the way HIV patients did.
Q: Why do you think that only 1 percent of healthcare dollars is allotted to cancer therapies? What could be done to change this?
A: The 1 percent should be more. The more we spend on targeted therapies, the longer people will live and the less time and money they will spend on hospitals and other services. Health plans should stop using comparative effectiveness as a reason for denying coverage and co-pays for discouraging use.
Q: What can be done to speed up the reimbursement review process? I can recall NICE recommending against various cancer drugs, and typically, it was due to cost.
A: If there’s a genetic marker for a medicine that targets a specific cancer causing pathway or genetic trigger, it should be adopted immediately. As I noted in answer 3, comparative effectiveness research adds nothing but time, which is something people dying from a disease have in limited supply.
Q: How was the Phil the Pill mini web series developed? What does CMPI hope to accomplish with the series?
A: Phil the Pill has retired or gone generic. He was our first effort to use YouTube to educate people about the Value of Medical Innovation. The fast draw video on our new website is a great example of the kind of media we hope to produce in the future.
Q: If the pharma industry were to adopt social media more, would this assist in placing cancer patients in charge of their care?
A: Biotech and pharma companies mostly regard health plans and doctors as their customers. Patients are customers. It’s that disconnect -- not FDA regulations -- that limit the use of social media by drug companies. Consumers will drive changes in healthcare and social media tools that allow us to get the best treatment more quickly, stay informed of what’s in development, and manage life with cancer. This would give cancer patients more control over their care.
Q: According to global sales and marketing company ZS Associates, the budget sequester that went into effect in March reduced Medicare reimbursement for oncology drugs from 6 percent, plus the average sales price, to 4 percent. The move will cost the average independent community oncology practice $250,000 each year. What is your take on this?
A: Sequestration cuts are forcing community cancer centers to ration care. Why aren’t we paying for the most effective and cost saving care? New targeted treatments are being cut without regard to their value. Reimbursement has to shift to what’s best for patients long term.
Posted: August 2013