The Price of Life

Really interesting comment on cost-benefit analysis on cancer drugs:

I'm not familiar with the specifics of Tarceva, but I do work in anti-cancer drug development. There are a couple things that folks should consider which might add some nuance to this particular drug/disease combination.

Fist, pancreatic cancer has one of the highest mortality rates of any form of cancer (it's right up there with lung cancer). The statistic I'm most familiar with is 3% chance of surviving five years. That statistic is from about four years ago, but I'm fairly certain that I would have heard about any major advances in this area. So like Megan mentioned, small advances against this disease can be really good.

The other situation people should consider is that efficacy from clinical trials is a worst case scenario. Patients who qualify for these trials are generally not responsive to the current standard of care and can have complications which might not exist in the general patient population. So it's not unreasonable to expect that someone recently diagnosed with pancreatic cancer might derive more benefit than someone in a clinical trial. These data can take a while to accumulate after a drug has been approved, and this is also the period where drugs are the most expensive.