Saturday, March 26, 2011

Cost of Treatment: Ipilimumab (Yervoy) and others

Maybe you read yesterday's post about the announced cost of Ipilimumab (Yervoy) by Bristol Meyers Squibb. $120,000 for the four infusions. The Melanoma Community Boards are lit up like Christmas trees - many grateful for being able to access a drug which they were not able to get on before approval at any price (with the hope insurance will cover portions of it or negotiate a rate deal with the drug company). Many are outraged at the pricing, and the fear it will be unaffordable for them.

Meagan got the Ipilimumab through a compassionate use agreement with the drug company for free, because our hospital (Swedish) had been the site of one of the clinical trials. We (and our insurance company) paid for doctor visits, scans (incredibly expensive), and lab work. This drug - a monoclonal anti-body - has been in development  for over 10 years, and required an enormous amount of investment by the drug company. It has the potential to save a huge number of lives. Is it any wonder that our health care costs are going up? Yet who among us would not want this money spent if you were in the position?

Our next treatments are not likely to be cheap either. But since they are clinical trials, the cost of drugs will be free. My understanding is that participation in clinical trials at the National Cancer Institute is completely free and includes all care - scans, labs, doctor visits, hospitalization (since most of the treatments are done in two week stays) and they pay a small per diem for food and lodging. So we'll be out for airfare and the differential between what they pay us and the actual cost of food, lodging, ground transportation and miscellany. I think I will need to have a chat with our insurance company (we have a new one as of April 1st) about getting a case manager and negotiating with them about covering these costs related to treatment.


  1. I have just read your post and wish your wife the very best outcome. I live in Japan and have a friend just diagnosed with stage 4 Melanoma and has been told about ipilimumab - which is not approved here in Japan yet so we need to go to the USA. He does not have insurance so I am wondering what the total cost would be. Does anyone know?

  2. Karina, my understanding is that it is $US 120,000 for the four infusions. Very expensive.