This news coverage doesn't help women with breast cancer

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A drug company applies to expand its approval for a drug (Tykerb) for advanced breast cancer in the US and Europe. And the only source AP quotes in the story is an employee of the drugmaker. That is not sound journalism.

The story is one of the resounding majority (72%) of health news stories I’ve tracked in the past 3 years that failed to discuss the cost of the product being discussed.

But a woman on a breast cancer discussion board recently claimed:

“The drugs cost almost $6000 per month. I make only $1000 more per month than that. All my savings is wrapped up in real estate and I can’t even sell a house right now to pay for these drugs. How can ANYONE afford these drugs if not covered by insurance?! If anyone has been on this treatment and the drugs have stopped working for them and you have an unused supply, I would appreciate hearing from you. Please don’t throw these expensive drugs away. There are people out there who can use them!”

The story also gave an incomplete accounting of side effects and never quantified the benefits that the drug company put in its application for expanded approval.

Finally, the story failed to give the highly significant context that just last month the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) recommended that the drug “should not be used, except in the context of clinical trials, as it is not a cost effective use of resources.”


And before anyone counters, “This is meant to be a business story, not a health news story,” let me just ask if business news readers don’t deserve information on costs, from more than a single conflicted source, and context about steps one government agency has already taken to recommend against the drug.

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