US health leaders: ‘No more painkiller’ for cancer patients

On Tuesday, President Donald Trump signed an executive order directing the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to start recommending no more painkillers for cancer treatment. 

The move is aimed at helping cancer patients avoid a spike in deaths from the disease and also at providing incentives for drug companies to lower prices.

But the move is facing fierce opposition from the pharmaceutical industry, which has been lobbying for more control over the prices of its drugs.

In a statement, the American Cancer Society (ACS) said that the move “sets up an unnecessary burden for cancer families and is simply wrong.”

“The ACS is concerned that the decision will increase the cost of cancer treatment and will harm patients who are already suffering from costly medications and care,” the statement read.

“We are asking the FDA to review the new policy and take a position that it is necessary to make a reasonable and thoughtful decision to address the rising costs of prescription painkillers in the United States.”

Dr Hyeon-seong Kim, a cancer specialist at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, told Al Jazeera that the US has not had a crisis in cancer prices in decades. 

“Cancer is the leading cause of death in the US,” she said.

“There’s no reason why cancer treatment should be the costliest part of cancer care.”‘

No one will be left behind’As for the drug industry, Dr Kim said: “No one is going to be left without painkillers and no one is in a position to negotiate.”

What I’m trying to say is that this is not the answer.

The painkiller companies have a monopoly on painkillers, and that monopoly is being broken,” she told Al-Jazeera.”

It’s about time that they get out of the business of drug manufacturing, and get back to the business that is making medicines, treating diseases.

“The US is the world’s third largest producer of prescription drugs after the UK and China. 

Last month, the US Senate voted down a bid by the pharmaceutical companies to force the FDA and the Department of Health and Human Services to approve generic versions of drugs such as OxyContin, codeine and codeine-laced Tylenol. 

In its submission to the US Congress, the pharmaceutical firms argued that the generic drug manufacturers would be able to market cheaper generic versions at lower prices, leading to higher profits for the companies.

However, in October the FDA announced it would not consider the request for a generic version of the painkiller Cialis and would not accept any applications from generic manufacturers for the drugs.

Earlier this month, a US appeals court ruled that a US court judge could not block the implementation of the drug price caps proposed by the US Department of Justice and the Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

In the decision, the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit rejected the Trump administration’s argument that the court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. 

A decision by the court could have major implications for the US drug industry.

In March, a judge ruled that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had authority to impose caps on drug prices and to impose more restrictions on the use of antibiotics and other medical devices in the fight against antibiotic resistance.

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