‘Comparator Report on Patient Access to Cancer Drugs in Europe’ reveals significant inequalities still remain

Brussels, 16th January 2009 – European patients still face unequal access to cancer treatment, depending on where they live. This was confirmed in a report published today by Dr Nils Wilking, clinical oncologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, Sweden, and Prof Bengt Jönsson, Professor of Health Economics at the Stockholm School of Economics. These inequalities and gaps in survival of cancer patients are particularly noticeable when comparing Eastern Europe with Northern and Western Europe.

The report, based on findings from the 27 EU Member States (excluding Cyprus and Malta), Iceland, Norway and Switzerland, updates and improves on two earlier reports by the same authors in 2005 and 2007. This most recent report was supported by an unrestricted grant from EFPIA, the Federation of the research-based pharmaceutical industry in Europe. Analyses were conducted by i3 Innovus, a company specializing in health economics and outcomes research. “Appropriate access to new treatments is vital, and examining variations in patient access between countries is a positive way to stimulate discussions on the optimal use of new technologies and treatment,” said Brian Ager, Director General of EFPIA.

The report reveals that whereas cancer incidence is increasing, cancer mortality is decreasing, indicating the positive impact of screening programmes and improvements in treatments. “New treatments have made it possible to target diseases more effectively. For cancer patients, these newer therapies mean an improved quality of life, with less time spent in hospital and the chance to return to their day-to-day activities earlier”, said Dr Wilking.

However the report highlights wide gaps in Europe in relative survival rates. For example, in Sweden 60.3 % of men and 61.7 % of women diagnosed with cancer survive compared to only 37.7 % of men and 49.3 % of women in the Czech Republic. EUROCARE 4 data also shows that for a similar incidence, cancer patients in Sweden have greater chances of survival than those in the UK. Healthcare systems in Europe are spending more on cancer, but this expenditure remains lower than the relative burden of cancer in comparison to other diseases.

Patients in Austria, France and Switzerland have the broadest access to newer cancer treatments while Poland, the Czech Republic and the UK continue to lag behind. Prof Jönsson emphasized “The inequalities –highlighted in our original report in 2005 – still remain. For patients and society this is a real concern, as expectations are that all patients in Europe should have equal opportunity to access these treatments, particularly when evidence shows that access to cancer treatment is linked to an improvement in outcome”.

The report authors urged policy-makers to take action - 1.2 million deaths were caused by cancer in Europe in 2006 - and proposed new policies to improve treatment access for patients in Europe:

- Adapt healthcare budgets generally and hospital budgets specifically to incorporate the introduction of new cancer drugs;
- Introduce separate funding for cancer drugs, with or without requirements of an additional gathering of data;
- Expedite (regulatory and economic) review times for innovative cancer drugs
- Promote a European collaborative approach to collecting available scientific information for Health Technology Assessment (HTA)

The report is available for download on www.comparatorreports.se

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