High prices for cancer medicines aren't the only reason they cost insurers and patients so much.
Waste pads the bill, a study finds, because infused cancer drugs are distributed in the U.S. in vials that usually contain more medicine than most patients need. Most of the time that excess is thrown out, even though it's perfectly good — and worth hundreds or thousands of dollars.
Researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York estimate that wasted cancer medicine in the U.S. this year will add up to nearly $3 billion in excess costs.
Their finding comes as the federal government and much of the health care system try to reduce waste and overall medical spending, which accounts for about one-sixth of U.S. gross domestic product. It's proved difficult to rein in that spending, partly because there are so many competing interests, many of which benefit financially from waste and pricing systems that are murky at best. Meanwhile, cancer medicines are one of the highest-priced, fastest-growing drug categories.