Why are cancer drugs so expensive in the United States, and what are the solutions?

Mayo Clin Proc. 2015 Apr;90(4):500-4. doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2015.01.014. Epub 2015 Mar 16.


High cancer drug prices are a worsening trend in cancer care and are affecting patient care and our health care system. In the United States, the average price of cancer drugs for about a year of therapy increased from $5000 to $10,000 before 2000 to more than $100,000 by 2012, while the average household income has decreased by about 8% in the past decade. Further, although 85% of cancer basic research is funded through taxpayers' money, Americans with cancer pay 50% to 100% more for the same patented drug than patients in other countries. Bound by the Hippocratic Oath, oncologists have a moral obligation to advocate for affordable cancer drugs. In this article, we discuss the high cost of cancer drugs, the reasons for these high prices, the implications for patients and the health care system, and potential solutions to the problem.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Drug Costs*
  • Drug Industry / economics*
  • Health Care Sector / economics*
  • Humans
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents