Comparison of patients' access to new and better cancer drugs reveals inequalities between countries

Patients around the world face stark inequalities in access to cancer treatment, according to a report published today (Thursday 10 May) in the cancer journal, Annals of Oncology [1]. The report's authors urge decision makers in every country to take action and ensure that everyone has equal access to new cancer drugs when they are needed, wherever they live.

The report by Dr Nils Wilking, clinical oncologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, and Dr Bengt Jnsson, director of the Centre for Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics, updates and improves on an earlier report by the same authors published in 2005.

The new report covers 25 countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, South Africa and the USA, as well as 19 European countries, with a total population of 984 million, and it looks at access to 67 innovative cancer drugs. It reveals that Austria, France, Switzerland and the US are the leaders in the use of new cancer drugs, with France replacing Spain among the top four since the 2005 report was published.

The authors report that uptake of new cancer drugs is "low and slow" in New Zealand, Poland, Czech Republic, South Africa and the UK.

Dr Jnsson said: "The greatest differences in uptake were noted for the new colorectal and lung cancer drugs: bevacizumab, cetuximab, erlotinib and pemetrexed." (Lung and colorectal cancer are among the world's top cancer killers for both men and women [2]). The USA's uptake of bevacizumab for colorectal cancer was ten times the uptake of the European average. In Europe, Austria, France, Germany, Spain and Switzerland had uptake that was higher than the European average; Denmark, Hungry, Norway, Poland and Sweden had low uptake; and Italy and the UK had very low uptake. The uptake of cetuximab was highest in France and the USA and low in Finland, The Netherlands, Poland and Sweden. For lung cancer, uptake of erlotinib was ten times higher t

Contact: Emma Mason
European Society for Medical Oncology

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