May 23, 2018
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Cancer costs swelling toward ‘unsustainable,’ report says

By Kristen Hallam, Bloomberg News

LONDON — Cancer treatment costs are rising at such a rapid rate that they threaten to become “unsustainable” even for rich countries, according to an expert panel assembled by The Lancet Oncology medical journal.

About 12 million people worldwide get cancer every year, and the costs associated with new cases was at least $286 billion in 2009, according to a report compiled by 37 experts from countries including Britain, the United States and Germany. By 2030, about 22 million people will be diagnosed with the disease annually, the panel told a cancer conference in Stockholm Monday.

Cancer diagnosis and treatment is becoming more complex, with a mix of imaging, surgery, radiation and drug therapy involved in fighting tumors. Experts in those fields need to come together and discuss with patients, insurers and industry players the best ways to lower costs without compromising care, the panel said.

“With an aging global population and an endless conveyor belt of expensive new drugs and technologies and increasing financial pressures, the cost of cancer care in high-income countries is becoming unsustainable,” The Lancet Oncology said in a statement.

More than half of the $286 billion in costs was related to treatment, while a quarter was linked to lost productivity, the report found.

The panel included economists, patient advocates and physicians, the journal’s editor, David Collingridge, wrote in an accompanying comment. Input from drugmakers, payers and educators will be key to future discussions, Collingridge said.

“We are at a crossroads for affordable cancer care, where our choices, or refusal to make choices, will affect the lives of millions of people,” said Richard Sullivan, a professor at King’s College Integrated Cancer Centre in London who presented the report to the European Multidisciplinary Cancer Congress in Stockholm.

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