BEACON TRANSCRIPT – A new research published in The Lancet Oncology shows that cancer drugs vary in price in Europe from 28% to 388%.
Some new cancer drugs have a different price across the European continent. For example, countries like Portugal, Spain, Greece and the U.K. pay less for these drugs than do Switzerland, Germany or Sweden, which are the countries that pay the highest prices. A similar situation is happening in Australia and New Zeeland as well.
Taking a look at the numbers we will see that for interferon alfa 2b, citizens of Germany pay 223% more than those in Greece. Also, Germany is paying 172% more than New Zeeland for gefitinib, a drug used for treatment of lung cancer.
On the other hand, New Zeeland is paying 209 euros for a vial of gemcitabine, used to treat breast, lung or ovarian cancer, while in Australia a vial of the same drug costs only 43 euros.
Cancer drug prices have become an issue for health-care systems in recent years as there has been a considerable increase around the world. For example, the European Union has spent 51 billion euros in 2009, and a third of this expenditure went on cancer drugs. Also, in Australia the money spent on drugs for cancer treatments went from Aus$65 million in 2000 to $422 in 2012.
For the study researchers have used official price data from the PPI (Pharma Price Information) for 16 countries in Europe and from pharmaceutical schedules in New Zeeland and Australia. In this way, they wanted to find out how much the producers were charging per unit in 2013. They specifically looked at a number of 31 cancer drugs that were new on the market.
None of the 31 drugs had a price lower than 10 euros per unit. Seven of these drugs cost more than 1000 euro and plerixafor, a drug used for stem-cell transplantation is over 5000 euro per injection.
Although the study has been based on data about the official price rates from manufacturers, the actual prices at which the drugs are being sold cannot are not recorded. Some ‘discounts’ may exist, in some countries the government and health-care system cover part of the costs so patients can have access to the drugs.
However, with information being so scarce, researchers cannot be sure of the real prices of cancer drugs nor can they understand why exactly the prices are so widely different in these countries. Hopefully pharmaceutical companies could shed some light on the matter.
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