Cancer drug prices are so high that doctors will test cutting doses

A group of prominent cancer doctors is planning a novel assault on high drug costs, using clinical trials to show that many oncology medications could be taken at lower doses or for shorter periods without hurting their effectiveness. As Exhibit A, they point to their pilot study involving a widely prescribed drug for advanced prostate cancer. Cutting the standard dose of Zytiga by three-quarters was as effective as taking the full amount — as long as patients swallowed the medication with a low-fat breakfast rather than on an empty stomach, as directed by the label.

“It’s inefficient, even wasteful, to take this medicine while fasting,” University of Chicago oncologist Russell Szmulewitz said in presenting the data at a conference earlier this year. Reducing the dosage of the $9,400-a-month medication as studied would sharply lower costs even for well-insured patients, he said. Another benefit would be fewer side effects; the patients who’d eaten breakfast with Zytiga, for example, had fewer stomach issues.

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