New drug for skin cancer treatment expected to be covered by health insurance
Health insurance companies are expected to cover a newly approved injectable drug designed to treat the most deadly form of skin cancer. It’s anticipated that a full course of treatment with the drug will cost $120,000.
On March 25, 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Yervoy, an immunotherapy treatment for advanced melanoma. Immunotherapy uses your body’s own immune system to help fight cancer.
|The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved a scientific breakthrough for treatment of advanced melanoma — a treatment that health insurers are expected to cover.|
John Elicker, a spokesman for Bristol-Myers Squibb Co., the developer of the drug, says Yervoy is expected to be available for sale by early April. Elicker says Bristol-Myers Squibb will work to ensure that melanoma patients have access to the prescription drug.
“We fully expect insurance to cover it,” says Timothy Turnham, executive director of the Melanoma Research Foundation.
That’s especially important because Bristol-Myers Squibb plans to charge $120,000 for a standard three-month regimen of Yervoy, according to the New York Times and Dow Jones Newswires. The drug is supposed to be given in four infusions over three months, with the cost working out to $30,000 per infusion.
According to the Melanoma Research Foundation, the drug will be used to treat patients whose skin cancer has spread to other parts of the body — a condition known as metastatic melanoma. Yervoy (whose chemical name is ipilimumab) is the first FDA-approved drug shown to have extended the lives of patients with advanced cases of melanoma; the drug does not cure the disease, however.
An estimated 68,000 new cases of melanoma were diagnosed in the United States in 2010, and about 8,700 people died from the disease, according to the National Cancer Institute. For patients diagnosed with advanced melanoma, the normal life expectancy is less than a year, according to the Melanoma Research Foundation.
Melanoma is the most common form of cancer among 25- to 29-year-olds.
“Late-stage melanoma is devastating, with very few treatment options for patients, none of which previously prolonged a patient’s life,” says Dr. Richard Pazdur, director of the Office of Oncology Drug Products at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.