Billions of dollars in cancer drugs thrown out each year - WNEM TV 5

Billions of dollars in cancer drugs thrown out each year

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SAGINAW, MI (WNEM) -

Most shoppers wouldn't buy a gallon of milk if they only planned to drink a pint's worth, so why are hospitals buying larger amounts of cancer drugs than they can use?

Hospitals are forced to throw the leftover drugs in the trash. It's a problem seen not only in Mid-Michigan, but at medical centers all over the country.

About $3 billion worth of cancer drugs will go to waste this year. It's happening right now. Vial after vial of the most common drugs used to treat breast, prostate, skin and colorectal cancer among others.

Drugs are being wasted instead of saving patient's lives.

Carrie Zubek is alive and well and back to work. Her breast cancer is gone, but the drugs that got her there she said were ridiculously expensive.

"It's ridiculous what they charge for something to save your life," Zubek said.

Even worse, like all cancer drugs, billions of dollars in waste cause the prices to hike and catapults insurance premiums.

"Even though you shouldn't have to put a price on your life, I don't think that the cost is comparable. It's ridiculous what they charge," Zubek said.

The problem is the packaging. Individual doses of virtually all cancer drugs are far less than individual vials contain. Most vials are impractical for storage or reuse. What can't be used by another patient is usually thrown away.

Covenant Healthcare Pharmacist Karl Nitz sees it every day with drugs like Yervoy for melanoma. It costs $25,000 per vial and the treatment is three vials plus change. So most or all of that fourth vial gets tossed out.

It's almost like putting nearly $25,000 in the trash.

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