An international survey revealed that there is huge variation in the price of cancer drugs in high-income counties. Some countries are charged more than double the price others are expected to pay.
The research shows that the differences in prices of new cancer drugs between European countries and Australia and New Zealand range from more than 25% to almost 400%.
The study involved a review of drug pricing in 18 countries with comparable pharmacological systems. These included Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand.
31 non-generic cancer drugs that had been authorized for oncology indication in all the chosen countries were selected.
The results indicated that none of the drugs included in the survey had an average unit price lower than €10. Four drugs had a unit price between €250 and €500. Two drugs had a price between €500 and €1000 per unit. Seven drugs had a unit price of more than €1000.
The most expensive drugs included plerixafor which is indicated for hematopoietic stem-cell transplantation in patients with lymphoma or multiple myeloma. plerixafor had an average unit price of €5824.25
Overall the United Kingdom and countries such as Greece Portugal and Spain paid the lowest average unit manufacturer price for cancer drugs. Conversely Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland paid the highest prices.
Researchers noted that it was difficult to obtain information on the actual prices paid for drugs rather than their price list. The study did not include for confidential discounts. Confidential discounts are increasingly common in countries such as Australia, Italy, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom.
Researchers assert that these findings suggest more transparency is necessary. Although agreements ensure patients access to new drugs, other countries risk overpaying when setting drug prices through the common practice of external price referencing or international price comparison.
Measures to tackle the high prices of and variations in cancer drug prices could include cooperation between countries.