The U.S. Throws Out $3 Billion Dollars In Cancer Drugs Every Year

(Reuters Health) – U.S. doctors and hospitals throw out almost $3 billion (roughly 2.7 billion euros) in unused cancer drugs each year because the medicines come in supersized single-use packages and excess medicine must be discarded for safety reasons, a recent paper suggests.

Researchers focused on 20 expensive medicines that are given by injection or intravenous drip and require doses adjusted based on the patient’s body size. Often, the packages contain much more medicine than patients need, and the leftovers wind up in the trash.

Even when much of the medicine goes in the garbage, patients pay for the whole vial, said lead author Dr. Peter Bach, director of the Center for Health Policy and Outcomes at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York City.

“The waste is driving up the cost of their care and it is money that they are spending that provides them no benefit,” Bach said by email. “It also drives up the cost for their insurance, which leads to higher premiums, which costs them more money too.”

Patients and insurers pay drug manufacturers about $1.8 billion a year for medicines that are thrown away, Bach and colleagues report in The BMJ.

They also pay an additional $1 billion to doctors and hospitals on wasted medications, according to the analysis.

Waste isn’t inevitable, the researchers conclude.

Take bendamustine, a drug for leukemia, that is sold in a broad array of package sizes. Doctors can combine different sized vials to get so close to the precise amount needed by the patient that only about 1 percent of the drug is wasted, the analysis finds.

But with another drug, bortezomib for multiple myeloma, the only available package size is far larger than what a typical patient needs and up to 30 percent of sales —> Read More