Expensive new anti-cancer drugs, often with modest clinical benefits, are contributing to the rising costs of treating patients with cancer. The purpose of this study was to determine recent trends in prices of new anti-cancer drugs.
Schedule of pharmaceutical benefits documents were searched for new listings of anti-cancer drugs and their prices that had been approved for PBS funding between 2000 and 2010. Drugs to treat haematological malignancies and non-melanoma skin cancers, vaccines, and drugs used for supportive care were excluded. Standard treatment protocols were used to calculate doses and prices for 28 days treatment for each new drug approved. Prices were inflated to 2010 dollars and plotted over time. Average price of prescriptions of all anti-cancer drugs was also determined from PBS pricing authority annual reports and compared with average prescription prices of other drug classes, rates of inflation and change in GDP per capita.
The total number of new drugs approved for use over this time period was 18, of which 33% (6) were cytotoxic and 50% (9) were targeted. All but one drug (cetuximab) was approved for treatment of advanced (incurable) disease. Cetuximab was first listed in 2007 and was also the drug with the highest price per month - $7484 (unadjusted for inflation). The average prescription price for all anti-cancer drugs has increased by an average of 10.4% per year over the 10 year period, which increases to 13.2% if drugs with an endocrine mechanism of action are excluded. In comparison, the average health prices inflation rate, overall inflation rate and increase in GDP per capita per year was 5.5%, 3.1% and 5.6% respectively.
Prices of new anticancer drugs have increased significantly over the last 10 years. If this trend continues Australian patients may have restricted access to effective new therapies.