High cost of cancer drugs not always justified
A growing number of new cancer drugs have come on the market in recent years, yet the cost of therapies in Europe and the United States have risen. This is driving up healthcare costs, which poses a challenge not only for the Swiss social insurance system, but for patients all over the world. But are the high prices of cancer drugs justified? Does the cost correspond to the particular drug's effectiveness in combating the disease? In a second stage, the researchers investigated whether there is a link between monthly treatment costs and the clinical benefit of cancer drugs for solid tumors. Our study clearly shows that, in general, for Switzerland, Germany, England and the United States, there is no association between clinical benefit of a cancer drugs and their prices. Only for France a correlation could be found based on one of the clinical benefit assessment systems.
This is because drug pricing in the US is dictated by the free, unregulated market. In Europe, on the other hand, national authorities negotiate prices with manufacturers. From the European countries analyzed in the study, Switzerland has the second-highest prices after England, while the same drugs are cheaper in Germany and France. It must be kept in mind, however, that NHS England benefits from non-public discounts on certain drugs, so the actual prices may be lower than the official list prices. The pricing of cancer drugs is only partially justified. Drugs that are less effective should be cheaper than those with high efficacy. National authorities should take greater account of the clinical benefits of drugs when negotiating prices, and therapies that provide high clinical benefit should be prioritized in price negotiations. This is crucial in order to guarantee patients access to key cancer drugs since countries have only limited financial resources.
Journal of Medical Oncology