Costs for Many Novel Cancer Drugs Not Aligned With Clinical Value in US, Europe


With more novel therapies entering the market, costs are on the rise, however, new research suggests that the price tag may not reflect the drug’s clinical value.

Many new and novel cancer therapies in the United States and Europe may not be worth their costly price tags, according to a new study presented at the ESMO Congress 2019.

The data, which were presented on September 29, assessed the links between clinical benefit and pricing for cancer treatment in both the United States and Europe.

High drug costs are often among the primary reasons why patients are unable to access newer cancer treatments. With more novel therapies entering the market, costs are on the rise; however, the new research suggests that the price of these drugs may not necessarily confer its clinical value.

For the study, the researchers examined the differences in cancer drug prices and looked at the correlation between drug prices and their clinical benefit using 2 value frameworks: the American Society of Clinical Oncology Value Framework v2 (ASCO VF) and the European Society for Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale v1.1 (ESMO-MCBS).

All of the drugs analyzed included treatments for adult solid and hematological cancers approved by the FDA from 2009 to 2017 and that have been approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) by December 31, 2018. Seventy-three percent of the drugs analyzed were approved for solid tumors and 27% were approved for hematologic malignancies, according to the study.

The researchers looked at whether the monthly treatment costs of these medications were associated with clinical benefit scores showing improved outcomes, such as survival, quality of life, and/or treatment complications versus standard treatment. US average sale prices were compared with comparable currency-adjusted drug costs in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland.

Overall, drug prices in the United States were significantly higher compared with European countries, with median cancer drug prices in Europe 52% lower than US prices. Despite the difference, these costs were not associated with clinical benefit score in any of the countries, not just in the United States, according to the study authors.

In terms of value, the results showed no association between monthly treatment cost and ASCO-VF or ESMO-MCBS scores. Similarly, there was no association between price differential between the United States and median European drug prices and either ASCO-VF or ESMO-MBCS scores, according to the study.

These findings underscore the importance of using clinical benefit scores to help guide treatment decisions and improve access to the medications with the greatest value.

“For example, some of the more expensive drugs for prostate and lung cancer in Switzerland had lower ESMO-MCBS scores, while cheaper drugs had higher scores,” study co-author Kerstin Vokinger, MD, JD, PhD, University of Zurich, Switzerland, and affiliated with the Program on Regulation, Therapeutics, and Law, said in a statement about the findings. “It is important that drug pricing is aligned with clinical value and that our limited resources are spent on innovative medicines that offer improved outcomes.”


Vokinger K. Abstract 1631PD_PR ‘Clinical benefit and prices of cancer drugs in the US and Europe’. Annals of Oncology. Presented at: ESMO Congress 2019. September 27-October 1, 2019. Barcelona, Spain.

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