The High Costs of Cancer Treatments Lead to Calls for Reform

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The NCCN unveils Evidence Blocks, a tool that allows patients and clinicians to identify optimal treatment based on clinical and economic considerations.
The NCCN unveils Evidence Blocks, a tool that allows patients and clinicians to identify optimal treatment based on clinical and economic considerations.

Some oncologists say now is the time to push for government reforms and significant changes in Medicare due to skyrocketing pricing of new cancer therapies. The prices for new agents are approximately $30,000 per month and are far from cost-effective in terms of overall survival.1

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) is now taking new steps to help oncologists better deal with the current paradigm changes in clinical practice.

Recently, the not-for-profit alliance of 26 of the leading cancer centers unveiled its NCCN Evidence Blocks, published within new versions of the NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology for chronic myelogenous leukemia and multiple myeloma.2

The Evidence Blocks were announced at the NCCN 10th Annual Congress: Hematologic Malignancies in San Francisco, CA.

“We view the Evidence Blocks as adding transparency to cancer care, especially for the patients who typically have no idea how much cancer therapies cost,” said Robert Carlson, MD, who is the chief executive officer for NCCN. “It is a huge issue and an important issue in oncology today.”

He said the Evidence Blocks should serve as a starting point for shared decision-making based on an individual patient's value system. The Evidence Blocks deal with the efficacy and safety of regimens, quality and quantity of evidence, consistency of evidence for regimens, and affordability.

It is hoped that these Evidence Blocks will help empower patients to work with their physician to identify optimal treatment based on clinical and economic considerations that are of most value to them.

The affordability measurement represents an estimate of overall total cost of a therapy, including but not limited to acquisition, administration, inpatient compared to outpatient care, supportive care, infusions, toxicity monitoring, antiemetics, growth factors, and hospitalization.

RELATED: Oncologists Offer Recommendations for Lowering Cost of Cancer Drugs

“We developed the Evidence Blocks at the request of clinicians,” Dr. Carlson said in an interview with Cancer Therapy Advisor. “We will have to have a governmental solution. The current system is not sustainable.”

Dr. Carlson said within the next 2 months, Evidence Blocks will be released for breast, colon, non-small cell lung, and rectal cancers. “By the end of the year we will be releasing 4 or 5 more and we will be adding an additional 10 in 2016,” said Dr. Carlson.

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