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Friday, March 25, 2011

How much is a month worth?

Ipilimumab.  Don't ask me how to pronounce it?
It is a new Drug for the treatment of skin cancer, that was just approved by the FDA.

I am not saying I am for or against this.  I am not making a judgement call one way or the other, but after reading the article it begged the Question?  How much is a month worth?

If you have cancer and are dying nobody could say how much another day would be worth, a week, or four months.  It is the moments, connections, lasting impressions we leave with those we have touched and leave behind, that truly matter. 

In the article it stated that this new drug was not a home run, but maybe a solid base hit, as it only made about a four month extension of life for those treated that had positive results during the clinical trials.  Solid base hit?

It said last year 68.000 people were diagnosed with this form of skin cancer (metastatic melanoma).  Of those patients 8,700 died.  That's 7.8 percent of those diagnosed.  It hasn't cured anybody of the cancer, it only has extended the life of a small percentage of the patients in the clinical trials.  85% of the patients tested had little response to the drug, according to the article.  It said 12 percent had a fatal Immune reaction during the study.  Fatal means that twelve percent died from just a reaction to taking the drug!  So if the drug was tried on the 68,000 diagnosed, 8,160 of the patients may have a fatal reaction.  Only 8,700 died from it without the drug, according to the same article. 

I do think it is a milestone in the way we treat cancer, by treating the cancer through immunology rather than chemotherapy.  Chemotherapy treats the tumor directly, where as treating the bodies own immune system to deal with the cancer itself seems to be a better approach.  From the results listed I really don't think it sounded positive enough to be passed for general use in public, obviously it is already passed enough tests to be used in clinical research. 

They went on to mention the company that is producing the drug and how they are losing the patent protection of two of it's major drugs in 2012.  The article mentioned that the company projects that the new cancer drug will produce an estimated 960 million dollars by 2015.  It's getting passed by the FDA resulted in a 57 cent jump in the companies stock and a sister companies stock jumped also.  Which got me thinking.  960 million divided by the number of months between now and the end of 2015 would be 57 months, would equal 16.8 million a month.  For four extra months of life, the company your buying the drug from will have banked 67.3 million.  How much is a month worth?  Well for one company it is worth 16.8 million a month because of this drug be allowed to sell on the market.  I am not the person to make a judgement call on this.  If I was diagnosed with cancer it would definitely effect my opinion, and four months longer with my family might be worth a hell of a lot more than 16.8 million.  I am only asking a question.  I am glad people are working on a cure and apparently headed in the right direction.


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