The High Cost of Cancer
By Amy Willis
If you or someone you love is stricken with cancer, you’d do anything to prolong their life, wouldn’t you? To what extent will your response depend on the cost of the treatment available? In this episode, EconTalk host Russ Roberts welcomes Mayo Clinic oncologist Vincent Rajkumar to talk about the seemingly exorbitant cost of cancer-fighting drugs.
1. What’s the “philosophical challenge” Roberts raises at about the ten minute mark (but which persists throughout the episode) regarding the effective use of money to make life better? Where do you stand with regard to this question, and why?2. What does Rajkumar mean when he says, “doctors [generally] don’t want to take on the value proposition?”
3. Rajkumar insists he is not putting the blame for the high cost of cancer drugs soley at the feet of Big Pharma. Why isn’t he, and to what extent do you think he’s right? How does Rajkumar’s perspective compare to that of previous EconTalk guest Robin Feldman?
4. Both Roberts and Rajkumar seem to find it easy to understand why cancer drugs are so expensive. They discuss the infamous case of Martin Shkreli. What (alternative) service does Roberts suggest he provided? To what extent is the public’s outrage toward Shkreli well placed, and why?
5. Roberts and Rajkumar conclude the conversation discussing possible reforms. Which of their varied suggestions do you think would be the most effective? Which is/are most likely to actually happen? Do you have any additional suggestions for reform, and if so, what?