Given rising cancer drug costs, US Medicare recently proposed to tie some drug prices to average prices paid by comparable countries. To understand the potential scope of this policy, we assessed differences in cancer drug prices in the US and European countries. We also evaluated the correlation between drug prices and their clinical benefit, as measured by two value frameworks: the American Society of Clinical Oncology Value Framework v2 (ASCO VF) and the European Society for Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale v1.1 (ESMO-MCBS).
We identified all new drugs for adult solid and hematologic cancers, approved by the FDA from 2009-2017 and that have also been approved by the EMA by December 31, 2018. US average sales prices (and if not available, wholesale acquisition costs) were extracted as of February 1, 2019, and compared to comparable currency-adjusted ex-factory drug costs in England, France, Germany, and Switzerland. ASCO VF and ESMO-MCBS scores were assessed for pivotal trials supporting solid tumor drugs; in case of multiple trials, we focused on the highest score. Consistent with the developers of the rating scales, “high benefit” was defined as scores of A-B (neo/adjuvant setting) and 4-5 (palliative setting) on the ESMO-MCBS scale and scores ≥45 on the ASCO VF. Linear regression models and non-parametric Kruskal-Wallis test and were used to assess the association between drug prices and benefit scores.
The study cohort included 63 drugs approved by the FDA and the EMA during the study period. 46 (73%) were approved for solid tumors, and 17 (27%) were approved for hematologic malignancies. Overall, median cancer drug prices in Europe were 52% (interquartile range: 37-72%) lower than US prices. There was no association between monthly treatment cost and ASCO-VF or ESMO-MCBS scores in any country. There was also no association between price differential between US and median European drug prices and either ASCO-VF (P = 0.599) or ESMO-MBCS (P = 0.321) scores.
Drug prices of cancer drugs were not associated with clinical benefit in the US or in European countries. Cancer drug prices in the US were significantly higher than in the compared European countries.
University of Zurich.
Swiss Cancer League.
All authors have declared no conflicts of interest.