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Opinion

Letters to the Editor: Price controls are the only way to make miracle cancer drugs affordable

Chemotherapy drugs
A nurse places a patient’s chemotherapy medication on an intravenous stand.
(Matt Rourke / Associated Press)

To the editor: The expense of keeping a terminally ill loved one alive in the U.S. today is a reflection of a healthcare system touting “value” when the true intent is to maximize profits.

The life of Dr. Peter Ubel’s wife is “priceless,” but her “chemotherapy drugs are too expensive.” His remedy, that Congress or the health insurers should “pursue legislation that requires healthcare prices to reflect health benefits,” smacks of ageism.

The most plausible course forward is governmental controls of pharmaceutical prices as well as the other healthcare costs that adversely affect too many of us. We need relief from the affordability stresses and denials that face us almost daily. They affect our health outcomes, especially the cancers that imperil so many.

Affordable prices would be the best remedy for us all. Recent chemotherapy drugs are truly miraculous and must be available to everyone, including Ubel’s wife.

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Jerome P. Helman, M.D., Venice

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To the editor: Doctors told Ubel and his wife that there was little chance her cancer would return. But it did. Unfortunately, doctors frequently encourage patients to keep hope alive.

There are so many new treatments for stopping cancers from growing. Happily for the husband, his wife’s cancer has not progressed. But has anyone asked the patient if the treatment is valuable in terms of quality of life?

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Too often the patients receiving treatment experience myriad side effects, causing them discomfort and misery. Still, the patients “hang on” only because their loved ones want them to keep fighting, quality of life or not.

While asking about cost as it relates to value is appropriate, one must also ask, “Value for whom?”

Marcy Bregman, Agoura Hills


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