Washington Insider: Mistruths and half-truths about oncology meds

Demonizing new treatments distracts from the real problem: policies that focus on the near-term

Peter Pitts
Peter Pitts

There's been much legitimate consternation over the October 5 60 Minutes segment on the cost of oncology meds. Hopefully the anger and indignation I've heard will drive some hard thinking toward smart and forceful actions to address the mistruths, half-truths, and straight-out lies presented during the program.

But why is anyone surprised? Did anyone expect a “fair and balanced” story from the same media that was complicit in helping to legitimize vaccine denial?

The 60 Minutes broadcast is only the most recent example of “value denial”—and it's important to understand the program not as a unique and unfortunate incident, but as a set-up for ASCO's pending announcement on it's new methodology for determining the cost-effectiveness of new cancer medicines.

But it's not cost effectiveness and it's not clinical effectiveness. It's a denial of personalized medicine. It is value denial.

Drugs aren't the cause of rising healthcare costs—they're the solution. Demonizing new treatments distracts from the real problem: top-down cost-centric policies that focus on the near-term, short-changing long-term patient outcomes, and so endangering “sustainable innovation” by denying fair reimbursement for high-risk investment in R&D.

New treatments are a bargain. Disease is always much more costly.

Until we counter the Orwellian newspeak that worships at the altar of the “high cost of drugs” with a fact-based and firm explanation of value, the minions of 60 Minutes will own the hearts and minds of the American public. And innovation loses.

And that is not acceptable.

Peter Pitts is a former FDA associate commissioner and president of the Center for Medicine in the Public Interest.


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