The report, entitled ‘A pan-European comparison regarding patient access to cancer drugs’, found that despite the proven benefits of new innovative treatments options, patients across Europe do not have equality of access to these cancer drugs and the speed at which patients can benefit from them depends to a great extent upon the country in which they live.
Nineteen countries, representing almost 75% of Europe’s population, were included in the report. Austria, Spain, and Switzerland are shown to be the leaders in terms of early adoption and availability of new cancer drugs whereas other countries, such as the UK, Czech Republic, Hungary Norway, and Poland lag behind.
“Patients have to wait too long to obtain the benefits of newer therapies and the biggest hurdle to the uptake of new drugs is the proactive allocation of financial resources and budget in the health care systems by policy and decision makers”, says Dr. Nils Wilking of the Karolinska Institutet.
Drs Wilking and Jönsson point out that the total healthcare cost for cancer in countries included in this report is an estimated 120 euros per citizen – only 5% of total healthcare expenditure. The cost of cancer drugs per capita ranges from 7 euros to 16 euros per citizen in Europe. Costs associated with inpatient hospital care costs dominate the direct costs of cancer in Europe, accounting for 60% to 94% of all costs and less than 10% is spent on drugs. The share of health care costs for cancer is much less than the share of burden of the disease.
“A superior approach for cancer patients in Europe would be to take a broader perspective on the benefits and costs these drugs bring to patients and society, and introduce a more rational system of allocation of resources to the healthcare system,” explained Dr. Bengt Jönsson of the Stockholm School of Economics. “It is worth emphasising that new treatments are usually targeted to specifically identifiable populations” ‘he continued. Dr Jönsson also added “There are examples of best practice in some countries which try to expedite patient access to innovative therapies – these should be assessed on their applicability for more countries in Europe.”
The report also argues that while new therapies generally increase health expenditure, the value they bring to patients in terms of survival and treating their cancer must be recognized. Research undertaken in the U.S. by Dr. Frank Lichtenberg of Columbia University suggests that access to more and newer cancer drugs improves survival rates.
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