Paul Billings Discusses Balancing Innovative Therapies With Higher Costs

As new therapies come to market, there is the good news that patients are cured or living longer, but it has to be balanced by the bad news that these treatments are far more expensive, said Paul Billings, senior vice president advocacy for the American Lung Association.

As new therapies come to market, there is the good news that patients are cured or living longer, but it has to be balanced by the bad news that these treatments are far more expensive, said Paul Billings, senior vice president advocacy for the American Lung Association.

Transcript

What impact will new, potentially curative, therapies have financially on patients and the healthcare system?

Well there’s great promise for new innovations in diseases like lung cancer, where we’ve seen many new therapies approved in the last couple of years that are not only extending the life, but also improving the quality of life for people with lung cancer. So, we’re hopeful that someday we will see many more cures come into the marketplace.

However, we also know that these medications are coming with extremely high costs. So, it’s a real challenge for the system to balance the need for innovation, the patient demand for hope, with out-of-pocket costs that can be extremely expensive and can really limit the ability of patients to have the benefits of this innovation.

How are the financial hardships facing patients with cancer changing as cancer becomes more of a chronic condition for many?

It’s a good news story: as a cancer becomes a chronic disease for many patients, it means that patients are living longer and living better lives as they are able to manage with targeted therapies, so they don’t have the wide range of adverse side effects that many experience with traditional chemotherapy. But it also means that patients are incurring costs for the rest of their lives.

So, it’s good news—you’re living longer—but the challenge is that it’s expensive. There’s not an easy solution to the situation, but we’re optimistic that we will find cures for lung cancer and other diseases and we hope that that innovation continues, and we hope to navigate the high costs by making improvements to the process.