A major new study has found substantial differences in the formulary availability, out-of-pocket costs and actual availability of anti-cancer medicines across Europe. The ESMO European Consortium Study on the Availability of Anti-Neoplastic Medicines is published today in the August issue of Annals of Oncology (1).
This ESMO initiated survey which gathered data from 46 European countries was carried out in cooperation with researchers from the Union for International Cancer Control (UICC), the Institute of Cancer Policy of King’s College London and the European Society of Oncology Pharmacy (ESOP).
Josep Tabernero, ESMO President Elect, explains: “As the leading European professional organisation for medical oncology, ESMO is a passionate advocate for the availability and accessibility of the most appropriate treatments for all cancer patients, regardless of their country of residence or specific circumstances.
“ESMO has an important part to play in assisting national institutions and individual oncologists alike in their clinical decision-making, by defining the magnitude, value and efficacy of different diagnostic and treatment options. The survey marks a significant step, because it gives health authorities across Europe the data they need to assess whether anti-cancer medicines are available to patients who are prescribed them.”
Co-Author Nathan Cherny of Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem, says: “The study found that the differences in the formulary availability, out-of-pocket costs to patients and actual availability of many anti-cancer medicines are most profound in countries with lower levels of economic development, particularly in Eastern Europe, and are largely related to the cost of new agents developed and licensed in the past 10 years.
“The impact of these disparities is most keenly felt by patients with incurable diseases, where improved outcomes are dependent on expensive anti-cancer agents. In contrast, the disparities are less pronounced in curative situations, where treatments such as adjuvant therapy for HER-2 positive breast cancer patients, for example, is generally subsidised and available in most countries,” continues Cherny.
“For those committed to ensuring equal access to cancer care, this is a landmark study that lays out the extent of current inequities and opens the discussion as to how to begin addressing them.”
ESMO Executive Board member and study Co-Author, Alexandru Eniu, says the survey represents the latest step towards ESMO’s goal of achieving a model of sustainable cancer care.
“Sustainable cancer care relies on information and ESMO has always taken an objective, evidence-based approach in order to assist clinical decision-making,” says Eniu. “ESMO recently established the Magnitude of Clinical Benefits Scale (ESMO-MCBS) (2) which highlights those treatments bringing the most significant improvements in patient survival and quality of life, while the ESMO Clinical Practice Guidelines are regularly updated to ensure the latest research results are transferred into clinical practice.”
Continues Eniu: “As a direct result of this survey, ESMO has established a Cancer Medicines Working Group which is assessing the accessibility and availability of different anti-cancer medicines. ESMO also has an active public policy programme to ensure the issue is on the agenda at the highest levels of European policymaking.
“Like cancer care itself, the availability and accessibility of anti-cancer medicines requires cooperation across a wide range of stakeholders and ESMO is pleased to be stimulating discussion and debate on this important and complex topic.”