VP Asks Why New Drugs Cost So MuchBY DENNIS DOMRZALSKI On Dec. 23, 1971, President Richard M. Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, officially beginning what he called the “War on Cancer.” Vice President Joe Biden urged the nation to exponentially speed up that war by launching a five-year moonshot-type initiative to battle cancer. Speaking at Howard University in Washington D.C. Wednesday at the Cancer Moonshot Summit, Biden urged everyone involved in the battle against the disease to work for the day “when the threat of cancer is a distant memory.” And he told them to work furiously, and smartly, so that 10 years worth of progress can be made in the next five years. “We are on the cusp of breakthroughs, and the goal of the Moonshot is to propel us forward today, today,” Biden said in a speech that was viewed by around 100 cancer researchers at the University of New Mexico Cancer Center. “We need to make a difference, not someday, but now. It's about having the urgency for now.” To accelerate breakthroughs in cancer research and treatment, Biden urged everyone in the field — nurses, oncologists, researches, doctors, biologists and administrators—to collaborate and share information and ideas. Pretty much ever major industry in the nation works collaboratively, but “somehow, not in medicine,” Biden said. Biden also decried the high cost of life-saving drugs — drugs that cost tens of thousands of dollars after first being developed, only to cost hundreds of dollars 15 years later. “Tell me, tell me, tell me, what is the justification for that,” Biden said. After Biden's speech, several UNM cancer researchers answered questions from audience members in the Cancer Center's auditorium. The good news for New Mexicans, the researchers said, is that between 15 to 20 percent of all state residents with cancer participate in clinical trials to test new drugs and treatments. That compares to the national average of around 4 percent. But, Dr. Olivier Rixe, associate director for clinical research at the Cancer Center, said participation should be in the 80 percent range. And, patients in clinical trials tend to get better treatment than those who don't, or can't, participate in them, the researchers said. New Mexico got a jump in information sharing 13 years ago when the New Mexico Cancer Care Alliance was formed to help coordinate clinical trials and research, the panelists said. Throughout his speech, Biden stressed urgency in accelerating the war on cancer. “We need to turn despair into hope a lot sooner than later,” he said.
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