Private Payer-Negotiated Rates for FDA-Approved Head and Neck Cancer Immunotherapy and Chemotherapy Agents

Abhinav Talwar, Sooyoung Kim, Shun Yu, Sandeep Samant, Yesim Tozan, Babak Givi

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: To quantify the price that private payers pay hospitals for head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) treatments and identify hospital-level factors associated with price variation. Study Design: Cross-sectional study. Setting: Price transparency files. Methods: Files from the top 50 hospitals in otolaryngology according to the US News and World Report were analyzed between December 2021 and June 2022. This study analyzed the following Food and Drug Administration-approved HNSCC therapies: pembrolizumab, nivolumab, cetuximab, cisplatin, carboplatin, and paclitaxel. Results: Twenty-four (48%) hospitals reported prices for at least 1 medication in our sample. Newer biologics were significantly more expensive than traditional chemotherapeutic agents. Given approved medication regimens, all biologics in our sample have similar annual costs. Price markups over acquisition costs ranged between 109% (pembrolizumab, nivolumab) and 530% for carboplatin. Across hospitals, prices varied the most for paclitaxel, the cheapest medication in our sample, and prices varied the least for pembrolizumab the most expensive medication in our sample. Hospital 340B status and geographic location in the northeast/west are associated with lower price markups. Conclusion: Price nondisclosure remains a significant problem among hospitals. Newer biological medications are more expensive when compared to traditional chemotherapeutic agents. Prices vary significantly across hospitals, with lower price markups observed in 340B hospitals as well as hospitals located in the geographic northeast and west. It remains to be seen if price transparency will lead to more uniform pricing or lower costs of treatments.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)954-961
Number of pages8
JournalOtolaryngology - Head and Neck Surgery
Issue number4
StatePublished - Oct 2023


  • head and neck cancer
  • immunotherapy
  • price transparency

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Surgery
  • Otorhinolaryngology


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