MSKCC and ASCO Cancer Value Calculators

Jonathan B. Fassberg, MBA

July 2015, Vol 6, No 6 - VBCC Perspectives

There has been talk regarding pricing in healthcare for a number of years, so the recent move by the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and by Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), discussed in this issue of Value-Based Cancer Care (see “ASCO Develops New Framework to Evaluate the Value of Cancer Therapies“), is certainly a big deal, but is hardly surprising.

To date, the argument has been that drugs with more benefit are going to cost more, innovation is not cheap, and this is entirely justified when we are talking about drugs such as rituximab (Rituxan), trastuzumab (Herceptin), or imatinib (Gleevec); these drugs offer the potential for long-term disease remission, and even cure.

The issue is with regard to drugs that only offer a few extra months of progression-free survival, with very little or with no benefit in overall survival. These are incremental improvements compared with the standard of care, and this situation is common. So, are these drugs worth it? That is the question now formally being asked.

Is that debate in the forefront of investors’ calculations? Am I getting calls from my clients worried that investors will lose interest, because payers are not going to pony up for the dollar amount per dose that the business development team hoped for? No. That’s not what I am hearing. I don’t think that the stance by ASCO and MSKCC has had any effect on how investors place their bets; innovation is still the main driver, and the core of the discussion.

Change is coming, certainly that is true. Everyone agrees that the current pricing levels are unsustainable, but for the moment, the attitude in the laboratories and in the boardrooms is not, “what will the payer tolerate?” but is, “how can we crack this scientific nut, and get it to the marketplace?”

So, for the moment, it’s full speed ahead.