Cancer Treatment Costs in the U.S. Rose Faster Than European Countries

A new study published in JAMA Oncology found that prices for dozens of cancer treatments were significantly higher when introduced into the U.S. market, compared with markets in Germany, England, and Switzerland. In addition, while the prices continued to rise faster than inflation in the U.S. throughout the next decade, they decreased in the other three countries after accounting for inflation.


From the products’ launch in 2009 to 2019, 74% of the drugs examined in the study had price increases greater than inflation in the U.S. In comparison, only one of 62 drugs in England, zero of 60 in Germany, and seven of 56 in Switzerland had median price increases greater than inflation.


Median monthly cancer treatment costs per patient were $11,755 in the U.S., compared with $8,300 in Germany, approximately $6,950 in Switzerland, and $7,355 in England, after adjusting for currency and inflation.


This research emerges as federal officials are exploring proposals for reducing drug price disparities between the U.S. and other countries. The investigators noted that most price differences between the U.S. and three European countries were a result of higher launch prices in the U.S., which does not have a mechanism for assessing the costs and benefits of new medications for price negotiations. They also noted that Medicare, the largest payer for cancer treatments in the U.S., is prohibited from negotiating price.


Study coauthor Kerstin Vokinger, PhD, told STAT that these findings show how drug pricing could benefit from regulation. “Negotiations would make sense and drugs with high value should be prioritized. This is done in Europe through different health technology assessments and the U.S. should develop such a system itself, although it would take a lot of effort on all levels,” she said.

Sources: STAT, July 1, 2021; Vokinger KN, Hwang TJ, Daniore P, et al. Analysis of launch and postapproval cancer drug pricing, clinical benefit, and policy implications in the U.S. and Europe [published online ahead of print, 1 Jul 2021.] JAMA Oncol. doi:10.1001/jamaoncol.2021.2026