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New Anticancer Drugs Associated With Large Increases In Costs And Life Expectancy

Author: David H. Howard, Michael E. Chernew, Tamer Abdelgawad, Gregory L. Smith, Josephine Sollano, David C. Grabowski
$15.00

Spending on anticancer drugs has risen rapidly over the past two decades. A key policy question is whether new anticancer drugs offer value, given their high cost. Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)–Medicare database, we assessed the value of new cancer treatments in routine clinical practice for patients with metastatic breast, lung, or kidney cancer or chronic myeloid leukemia in the periods 1996–2000 and 2007–11. We found that there were large increases in medical costs, but also large gains in life expectancy. For example, among patients with breast cancer who received physician-administered drugs, lifetime costs—including costs for outpatient and inpatient care—increased by $72,000 and life expectancy increased by thirteen months. Changes in life expectancy and costs were much smaller among patients who did not receive these drugs.

Spending on anticancer drugs has risen rapidly over the past two decades. A key policy question is whether new anticancer drugs offer value, given their high cost. Using data from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)–Medicare database, we assessed the value of new cancer treatments in routine clinical practice for patients with metastatic breast, lung, or kidney cancer or chronic myeloid leukemia in the periods 1996–2000 and 2007–11. We found that there were large increases in medical costs, but also large gains in life expectancy. For example, among patients with breast cancer who received physician-administered drugs, lifetime costs—including costs for outpatient and inpatient care—increased by $72,000 and life expectancy increased by thirteen months. Changes in life expectancy and costs were much smaller among patients who did not receive these drugs.

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