Strategies for Sustainable Cancer Care
Kerr DJ., Jani A., Gray SM.
There is an increasing focus on the relative cost-effectiveness and sustainability of delivering high-quality cancer care, with most emphasis, debatably, given to cost control of innovative treatments. It is difficult to calculate all the direct and indirect contributors to the total cost of cancer treatment, but it is estimated that cancer drugs constitute 10% to 30% of the total cost of cancer care. A 2007 study in France showed the contribution of drug costs was less than 20%, with approximately 70% of the total expenditure on cancer accounted for by health care resource use, such as hospitalization. The U.K. government established the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE)-the dominant function of which is technology appraisal-to assess the clinical and cost-effectiveness of new pharmaceutical and biopharmaceutical products. This is to ensure that all National Health Service (NHS) patients have equitable access to the most clinically effective and cost-effective treatments that are viable. NICE has developed a transparent, public process to judge incremental cost-effectiveness using the quality-adjusted life year (QALY), which allows comparisons of cost-effectiveness across medical specialties. NICE has been both lauded and criticized-especially when it passes judgment on marginally effective but expensive anticancer drugs-but it provides a route to "rational rationing" and, therefore, may contribute to sustainable cancer care by highlighting the issue of affordable medicine. This implies a challenge to the wider oncology community as to how we might cooperate to introduce the concept of value-driven cancer care.