About those chemo prices…

A couple days ago, I get a call from a friend of a friend. I know the mutual friend from student days in Beijing in the mid-80s. The guy who’s calling runs a film company with his wife, who was diagnosed with breast cancer a couple months ago. They grew up in San Francisco, and divide their time between California and Beijing. She’s doing a clinical trial at Stanford, in which they’ll do all her radiation treatment in a week. (Considering how tired I feel in this, my fourth week of radiation, getting it all at once sounds exhausting.)

Then his wife begins four rounds of chemo on the same regimen I completed: TCH, Taxotere, Carboplatin and Herceptin. She’ll get all three drugs every three weeks for four rounds, then the Herceptin continuing for about a year. After they’re done with the Taxotere and Carboplatin, he says, they’re thinking of returning to Beijing and continuing the Herceptin there.

In Beijing, he says, one dose of Herceptin costs about $5,000. In the US, one dose of Herceptin costs about $10,000, or roughly double the Chinese price.

This just confirms my theory about the crazy chemo drug prices: Big pharma just charges what the traffic will bear, or what a country’s laws will allow.


About leftbreast

I have had breast cancer. I was diagnosed at 47, and am now 49. I have finished "active treatment," two surgeries, chemo, radiation, monoclonal antibodies. These days, I only take a drug to suppress my uptake of estrogen, since my tumor was highly reactive to that hormone. I have been married to my husband Pete for 21 years. I have a stepdaughter, Maureen, 30, and a daughter, Erin, 10. I've been a freelance magazine journalist for 20-plus years, covering everything from Chinese foreign policy to Catholic nuns to endangered species. I have had a great life. I have lived in Asia and all over the United States. I have spent nights with tree-sitters in Oregon and with astronomers at the Mauna Kea observatory in Hawaii. I've been to a cocktail party on the poopdeck of a British destroyer docked in Shanghai. I've taken the bus to Tibet, and tramped through the cloud forests of Panama with biologists. A magazine sent me on a raft trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon; another sent me to cooking school for a week. I have spent time with celebrities, presidents and heroin dealers. I love my work. I have a loving, supportive family and more friends than I probably deserve. I have had the space and time to camp, ski, cycle, garden, cook and spoil my pets (an Australian shepherd, a German shepherd and a tabby cat). If it all ended tomorrow, I would have to say that it has been a really, really good ride. When I was in thick of treatment, I was simply fighting for more time. Now, I'm trying to connect the experience of cancer with the rest of my life, with the time that's been won. I hope the cancer never comes back, but if it does, I'll be ready. That's what this blog is about.
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