A half million dollars to prevent one case of prostate cancer?

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Why doesn’t this kind of cost analysis make it into stories?

An AP story last week on Avodart being tried for prostate cancer DID give the NNT or number needed to treat, but didn’t project the cost analysis behind that NNT.

The story said that “to prevent a single case of cancer, 71 men would have to take finasteride [a similar drug] for 7 years.” But it didn’t then do the math. The story says Avodart is $3 per pill, so—

71 men x 365 days/yr. x 7 yrs. x $3/pill = $544,215 to prevent a single case of prostate cancer.

How can these kinds of numbers be left out of stories?

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Ian Spatz

May 4, 2009 at 8:46 am

Great point. However, the tougher question is “is it worth it?”. You’d have to ask what the costs of cancer treatment would be. You’d also have to ask how many years of quality adjusted life you’d gain from avoiding this one cancer. If, for arguments sake, you’d avoid $100k in treatment costs and add ten years to someone’s life, that cost may look quite reasonable (compared to other spending in our health care system).
I support your call for perspective in health news reporting. However, real perspective is tough to come by.