HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Concordia University School of Law

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Cancer Therapy Costs Influence Treatment: A National Survey of Oncologists

A new article in Health Affairs reports on a national survey of the treatment recommendations of 1,379 oncologists. The survey indicates that rising drug costs are influencing practice, even though oncologists generally don’t communicate with patients about costs. Hat tip to Ed Silverman at Pharmalot who summarizes the findings:

84 percent of oncologists say patient out-of-pocket spending influences treatment recommendations and 56 percent strongly or somewhat agreed that costs influence their treatment decisions. Yet only 43 percent always or frequently discuss costs with patients. The survey notes prices rose 14 percent annually in recent years.

Meanwhile, 73 percent agreed with the statement that “over the next 5 years, costs of new cancer drugs will play a more significant role in my decisions regarding which cancer treatments to recommend for my patients.” The results also found 79 percent favor more comparative effectiveness research and 80 percent support more cost-effectiveness data, but only 42 percent feel well prepared to interpret it. And 58 percent believe patients should have access to effective cancer treatment only if the treatments are cost-effective or provide good value for money. What’s good value? The most popular response, or 49 percent, was $50,001 to $100,000 per life-year gained.

The results suggest docs support federally funded comparative effectiveness research but they wish to retain a central role in making decisions about how and when to use expensive cancer meds. “This finding has special relevance in light of the recent American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which provides $1.1 billion to fund comparative effectiveness research, and in light of provisions of health reform legislation that would expand the research even further,” the authors conclude.

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