The Complicated World of Cancer Care Economics

The Complicated World of Cancer Care Economics

The economics and financing of cancer care are undergoing rapid shifts which will continue in the coming years. From the cost of new drugs to reimbursement reform options, the economic landscape of oncology has never been more important for clinicians to understand. To address this need, ASCO held its first-ever seminar on “The Economics of Cancer Care,” on May 28 and May 29.

“Cancer incidence increases with age, and we have an aging population. The U.S. population is also growing, so even though incidence rates are declining, the absolute number of people newly diagnosed with cancer in the United States is increasing,” said K. Robin Yabroff, PhD, MBA, of the National Cancer Institute, who was on the planning committee for the seminar. “If you combine this population trend with changes in treatment and cost of treatment, we’re expecting to see the costs of cancer care rise dramatically in the future. That’s one really important component of this.”

Projections suggest the costs associated with cancer care will increase by 27% between 2010 and 2020, Dr. Yabroff said. That estimate is solely based on population changes and does not include changes in treatment patterns and costs.

Spending on Research and Development, Care

The seminar began on May 28 with a session on current and future strategies for rewarding research and development in cancer therapeutics and diagnostics, chaired by Elad Sharon, MD, MPH, also of the National Cancer Institute. It included discussions of trends regarding spending on drug development, pricing of those drugs as incentive for investment, and other issues.

Dr. Yabroff chaired the second session, which covered trends in spending on cancer care. This included talks on the high-level, national view of spending trends, as well as more specific issues, such as costs of targeted therapies. Another talk focused on cancer diagnosis, treatment, and work, a topic Dr. Yabroff said is crucial but often forgotten.

“Some treatment regimens may require extended leave or workplace accommodations, and making sure that patients understand what will be required is really important,” she said.        

Reimbursement and Future Reform

On May 29, the seminar began with a session on ideas related to reimbursement reform. This session, chaired by Rena M. Conti, PhD, of the University Chicago and the chair of the planning committee, included discussion of projects such as the Anthem Pathways Initiative and the Community Oncology Medical Home (COME HOME) grant.

The seminar concluded on May 29 with a session on future reform—ideas on drug acquisition and coverage, using outcomes to establish value, and others.

“It’s very exciting,” Dr. Yabroff said. “This is a new topic for ASCO, so I think it is great to see it on the agenda, and I’m hoping it will be the first of many.”

The ASCO University® module based on this seminar’s content is available for purchase at the ASCO University Bookstore. To purchase, visit the ASCO University Bookstore onsite in the Oncology Professionals Hall, ASCO Central, Booth 7004.