Value in cancer drug spending: new LSE Health research

Taken as a whole, approximately 1 in 3 newly approved cancer medicines were not associated with any overall survival benefit, while 1 in 5 neither extended life nor improved quality of life or safety.

New research by LSE Health’s Sebastian Salas-Vega and Elias Mossialos questions the value of spending on ever-more expensive cancer medicines. The study, published in JAMA Oncology, finds that while most new cancer drugs approved between 2003 and 2013 extended overall survival or improved the quality of life of cancer patients, their clinical benefits vary widely.   

The study seeks to overcome the lack of systematic evidence of the clinical risks and benefits of innovative medicines by synthesising Australian, English, and French health technology assessments of new cancer drugs licensed in the US and Europe between 2003 and 2013.  

Findings indicated that just under half of the 53 drugs analysed increased cancer patients’ quality of life, yet the largest share (45%) reduced patient safety. Taken as a whole, approximately 1 in 3 newly approved cancer medicines were not associated with any overall survival benefit, while 1 in 5 neither extended life nor improved quality of life or safety.            

The report concluded that spending on new cancer drugs may not always be proportional to their clinical benefits, raising a number of important questions about value-based decision-making in oncology.            

The study has been widely referenced in the international academic and mainstream media with coverage in the BMJ and on Reuters news. See the LSE Health Blog for more information on the publication.

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