In the U.S. we spend more on cancer care than in other countries, but what are we getting for the additional money? I'm excited to say that new evidence is out that shows American cancer patients are not only living longer compared with European patients, but also that the monetary value of this enhanced survival also outweighs the treatment costs.
In a series of articles in this month's issue of Health Affairs
, researchers examine the benefits and costs of cancer care. The studies show that patients are less concerned with cost than they are with living longer. They'll take risks and pay more in order to gain more survival time. That finding may not come as a surprise, but one particular study
showing a two-year survival advantage in the U.S. compared with 10 European countries between 1983 and 1999 also found that the financial value of extra survival time is worth the additional cost of care. Whether it's surprising or not, it's important to consider..
Tomas Philipson, from the University of Chicago, and his coauthors found that the value of additional years of life in dollar terms for U.S. cancer patients surpass the costs. "Even after considering higher U.S. costs for treatment, their calculations showed the extra longevity was worth an aggregate of $598 billion - an average of $61,000 for an individual cancer patient," according to a statement from Health Affairs. The value of the survival gains was highest for prostate cancer ($627 billion) and breast cancer ($173 billion).
Philipson and colleagues sum it up nicely, saying: "We found that the value of the survival gains greatly outweighed the costs, which suggests that the costs of cancer care were indeed 'worth it.'" (Hat tip to the L.A. Times
Booster shots blog
"Further research is required to examine the drivers of spending and their effects on outcomes, including assessing the relative contributions of treatments, screening, the skill of health care personnel and other factors in improving patient outcomes," they concluded (Hat tip to U.S. News & World Report
In an environment and era of cost-containment, it is encouraging to see confirmation that patients truly benefit from the priority the United States places on the availability of cutting-edge treatments - and that this personal value to patients also translates into economic value for our society as whole.