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Questioning a $30,000-a-Month Cancer Drug


5 Star

Questioning a $30,000-a-Month Cancer Drug

Our Review Summary

This story focuses on issue of the cost of a new cancer drug, but it also provides valuable and balanced information for the reader on the drug, Fotolyn, in terms of its potential benefits, availability, novelty, and evidence to support its use. Notably, the story quotes multiple stakeholders, including experts from the drug manufacturer, a large insurance company, and lymphoma researchers. These quotes provide diversity of perspectives on this controversial issue.


Why This Matters

Recent debates on health care reform in the United States have highlighted the complex problem of cost of drugs and treatments. Healthcare costs are rising at alarming rates, causing a significant drag on our economy. How much is too much to spend on a new drug? The recent news of the FDA approval of Folotyn, a chemotherapy drug for peripheral T-cell lymphoma, a rare and serious cancer, has raised this question in dramatic fashion. Folotyn is projected to cost $30,000 per month, quite a bit higher than other high priced cancer drugs. Folotyn is projected to be a money-maker for the manufacturer, Allos Therapeutics.


Does the story adequately discuss the costs of the intervention?


The story goes into some detail about the cost of Folotyn, which is extraordinarily high. The story also does a great job of comparing the cost of the drug to other expensive cancer drugs. Costs were the main focus of the story.

Does the story adequately quantify the benefits of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story adequately quantitifes the benefits of Folotyn, which are not that impressive. The story provides the percentage of patients with reductions in tumor size and the median time that the benefits lasted.

Does the story adequately explain/quantify the harms of the intervention?

Not Satisfactory

The story does not mention any potential harms of Folotyn. Although the primary focus of the story realtes to the drug’s cost, it would have desriable to provide a brief comment on the toxicity of the drug as well.  The addition of the information would help the reader place the value of the drug into a better perspective.  According to the package insert, 44% of patients treated in the clinical trial suffered from a serious side effect of the drug

Does the story seem to grasp the quality of the evidence?


The story describes the evidence to support Folotyn, which is rather thin. The story mentions one clinical trial that showed a reduction in tumor size in some participants, but that to date, the drug has not been shown to prolong longevity. The quote from a member of the FDA advisory board that recommended approval provides an excellent overview and counterpoint to the comments of the company spokesperson.

Does the story commit disease-mongering?


The story accurately represents the seriousness and prevalence of peripheral T-cell Lymphoma, which is quite rare and serious.

Does the story use independent sources and identify conflicts of interest?


The story quotes multiple stakeholders, including experts from the drug manufacturer, a large insurance company, and lymphoma researchers. The provide valuable diversity of perspectives on this controversial issue.

Does the story compare the new approach with existing alternatives?


The story clearly states that there are no alternatives to Folotyn for this particular indications, but compares the price of the drug to several other expensive cancer drugs. The story should have emphasized that Folotyn was studied in patients who have relapsed and a comparison with currently used regimens is not available.

Does the story establish the availability of the treatment/test/product/procedure?


The story clearly states that Folotyn is not currently available but that the manufacturer plans to market the drug in January.

Does the story establish the true novelty of the approach?


The story clearly states that Folotyn is new.  It could have stated that a host of older and less expensive treatment options are currently available.

Does the story appear to rely solely or largely on a news release?


Because the story quotes mutliple experts, the reader can assume the story did not rely on a press release as the sole source of information.

Total Score: 9 of 10 Satisfactory


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