Drug Prices Soar; Nurses Strike; and Music as Medicine

New Cancer Drug Prices Skyrocket

The cost of new cancer drugs is soaring, and controls are needed, according to a report done by Democratic Congresswoman Katie Porter, who advocates for such legislation.

The average launch price, adjusted for inflation, of oral therapeutics jumped by more than 25% to more than $235,000 per year, according to an analysis of cancer drug prices from 2017 to 2021, according to the report titled “Skyrocketing: How Big Pharma Exploits Launch Prices to Cash in on Cancer.”

When including other types of cancer drugs, such as those administered intravenously, the average launch price increase was 53%, according to the report.

Legislation needed: “Our office’s new report lays a framework for future reforms to address another major driver of high pharmaceutical costs: increasing launch prices for new drugs,” Porter says.

Some controls exist: The recently passed Inflation Reduction Act limits out-of-pocket costs for drugs to $2000 a year for Medicare recipients and caps insulin costs at no more than $35 per month.

UK NHS Nurses Vote to Strike

Nurses in the United Kingdom’s National Health System (NHS) voted to strike in a dispute over pay, the Royal College of Nursing says.

The vote paves the way for the first UK-wide strike in the college’s 106-year history, the college adds. At issue is the amount of a proposed pay increase.

A strike could begin before the end of the year and last until early May if a settlement is not reached. A strike would affect every NHS service in Scotland and Northern Ireland and all but one health board in Wales.

The issue at hand: An independent pay review body recommended an increase of at least £1400 this year, the equivalent of a 4%-5% raise for most nurses. But the Department of Health and Social Care said that the college’s demand would amount to a 17.6% hike once inflation is factored in and would cost around £9 billion to fund.

Poor pay and unfilled jobs: Nurse leaders argue that poor pay for its members is the reason 47,000 jobs for registered nurses remain unfilled in the NHS in England alone.

A Med Student’s Cello Therapy

A medical student plays his electric cello to soothe patients who are terminal and those with cancer at a hospital in New York.

Iain Forrest, 27, a third-year MD-PhD student at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, helped organize other students to perform in hallways or at bedside to ease patients’ suffering.

Forrest — who now goes by the stage name Eyeglasses — began playing the cello at age 10 and has performed at Radio City Music Call with Josh Groban and at the 2022 opening game ceremony at Yankee Stadium.

A memorable moment: Forrest and fellow musicians played a patient with terminal cancer’s favorite song, “Let It Be,” with his family present; the family said it was the first time the patient had smiled in a long time.

Research backs music as medicine: A recent review reported that music therapy can significantly increase overall quality of life for cancer patients and can decrease anxiety, depression, and pain more than can standard care.

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