ASCO to Develop Cost Effectiveness System for Expensive Cancer Treatments

The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) has decided to use an algorithm to ascertain the relative value of oncology drugs and therefore their cost effectiveness for cancer patients while urging physicians to discuss these costs with their patients.

The ASCO has put together a task force to develop this system in order to find a way to combat the rising cost of cancer treatments, since their costs may be rising but their efficacy is not. They intend to present the system for public comment sometime later in 2014.

The first cancer treatments to be considered will be those for lung cancer, prostate cancer, and multiple myeloma.

"Cancer is one of the primary reasons families go bankrupt today," said task force member Gary Lyman MD of the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle. "Often families are mortgaging their houses to pay for these expensive drugs. We want to make sure families understand both the benefits of what we can do and the financial impact."

Curiously, the ASCO has put on the task force representatives of both Astra-Zeneca and UnitedHealth Group, a major pharmaceutical company and the largest US health care insurer, respectively.

"My guess is that something like this can have a modulating effect [on drug prices]," said task force chairman Lowell Schnipper of Beth Israel Deaconess in Boston.

This will mark the first time that the ASCO will broach the issue of the actual value of the treatments that their oncologists offer. The value ratings system is expected to be quite influential, since it will be available to physicians on hand-held devices "at the point of therapy," said Lyman.

Source: Bloomberg

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