President's Cancer Panel

Promoting Value, Affordability, and Innovation in Cancer Drug Treatment


Letter to the President

The President
The White House
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

The President’s Cancer Panel concluded that addressing the dramatic rise of cancer drug prices must be made a national priority. Doing so will require a concerted, immediate, bipartisan, and multilateral effort. This report proposes balanced solutions aimed at growing a robust pipeline of innovative cancer drugs and ensuring that they are accessible to and affordable for those who need them.

The challenge at hand is complex. Innovative drugs offer new hope for patients to achieve long-term remissions—even cures—but virtually all new cancer drugs enter the market with a price tag that exceeds $100,000 per year and, increasingly, much higher. More and more patients are taking these novel drugs for months or even years. In addition, drug costs are accelerating far faster than costs for other components of care, which, together, can result in a significant financial burden on patients and their families. When financial resources are strained, patients are less likely to follow treatment regimens, potentially worsening health outcomes these drugs are intended to improve.

In this new era, there is an urgent need to ensure that drug prices are aligned with value. While high prices may be warranted for drugs that significantly extend survival and/or substantially improve quality of life, higher prices are not appropriate for drugs that do little to improve outcomes.

In developing this report, the Panel joined an ever-growing chorus of thought leaders and organizations calling for solutions to the problem of escalating drug prices. The Panel convened workshops in 2016–2017 with broad representation to ensure that the voices of many stakeholders and their respective viewpoints were heard. This included representatives of the pharmaceutical industry, healthcare providers, payers, and patients and their advocacy organizations, among others. Although the needs of all stakeholders are relevant when assessing the value of drugs, patients’ benefit must be the central focus. In workshops, patients expressed appreciation for the drugs that have helped them live but also shock at the price tags. We heard patients say that their peers worry about having to choose between paying for their medicines or their mortgages. That is a choice no one in this country should have to make.

Stakeholders in every sector must work together to maximize value and affordability in cancer drug treatment and support investment in science that drives future innovation. The time to act is now. Mr. President, we urge you to support policies that propose sustained, predictable funding for government agencies that are working hard to provide the American people affordable access to innovative cancer drugs. We offer concrete actions that you can take in collaboration with public and private stakeholders identified in this report. You have the power to help minimize the financial toxicity experienced by many cancer patients and their families. Failure to act will delay the inevitable and create unfathomable burden for far too many Americans, even denying many the potential life-lengthening and life-saving benefits of a remarkable new generation of cancer drugs.

We share patients’ optimism that innovation will result in more effective drugs—even cures—for cancer in the coming years and decades. We are pleased to share this report and our recommendations as a catalyst for action at this critical time. All cancer patients—now and in the future—should have affordable access to high-value drugs. For them, it is a matter of life and death.


Barbara K. Rimer, DrPH
Hill Harper, JD
Owen N. Witte, MD