Assessing the Cost of Cancer Care

Panelists:Michael Kolodziej, MD, Aetna; Andrew L. Pecora, MD, FACP, CPE, John Theurer Cancer Center; Jeffery C. Ward, MD, Swedish Cancer Institute

The cost of cancer care is on the radar screens for both commercial and private payers, notes Michael Kolodziej, MD. The complexity and high cost of care is partially due to the fact that cancer is very heterogeneous. Treatment costs may include multiple modalities, such as surgery and chemotherapy, adds Kolodziej, and may also include end-of-life care.

In terms of access to targeted therapies, care is generally restricted to patients who have high-risk or systemic disease. Overall, payers are looking to ensure that the right patient receives the right treatment at the right time, adds Kolodziej.

Medical oncologists are more focused than ever before on total costs of care, including the costs for medications, hospital stays, and diagnostics, according to Jeffrey C. Ward, MD. Although hospital costs make up the largest share, drug costs are the fastest growth area, he notes.

An example of a cost-effective targeted therapy can be found in chronic myeloid leukemia, says Kolodziej. Despite the higher cost for imatinib relative to the standard of care at the time, he adds, data have shown that better outcomes led to a reduction in total cost of care over a 10-year period.

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