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Cancer cost Ireland €1.447 billion in 2009

The richer the country…the more they spend.

Image: Cancer via Shutterstock

RESEARCHERS IN THE UK analysing the economic burden of cancer on Europe have found that the disease cost Ireland €1.447 billion in just one year.

That is 0.89 per cent of GDP.

Using data from 2009, the most recent year for which comprehensive information was available, the study found that Ireland was the fifth highest spender on cancer-related healthcare per capita in the EU.

The country falls in just behind Luxembourg, Germany, Finland and Austria.

Healthcare costs, including primary care, outpatient care, accident & emergency, inpatient care and medication amounted to €619 million of the total €1.447 billion, or €139 per person.

The remaining €828 million was calculated by adding together other determinants, including productivity losses and informal care costs. That includes the loss of hours due to premature death or time off work due to illness, as well as the worth of care by family and relatives.

Informal care costs totaled €162 million, while mortality and morbidity losses amounted to €603 million and €63 million respectively.

The study, published in the Lancet Oncology journal today, also breaks costs into categories of the disease.

During 2009, the economic burden of lung cancer on Ireland was €209 million. Colorectal cancer cost €158 million, while the corresponding figure for breast cancer was €137 million. Prostate cancer was fourth on the list at €81 million. However, researchers have warned that these estimates are conservative as they do not include some aspects of healthcare such as screening because certain pertinent information could not be gathered.

According to lead author, Oxford University’s Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez, the biggest determinant for expenditure is how rich a country is.

“We weren’t surprised that Ireland was quite up there,” he told TheJournal.ie. “You have to remember that the study was set in 2009 so the recession hadn’t quite bitten in fully. And with healthcare, changes don’t happen year-on-year. They take a while to set in.”

The main driver of cancer-related healthcare costs is a nation’s wealth. In general, wealthier countries tend to spend more, both in absolute and relative term s (i.e. as a proportion of their GDP), on healthcare and subsequently on cancer care.

However, there are some other nuances too.

Some countries rely heavily on inpatient services to provide cancer care while others resort more to the outpatient services, which are in most cases considerably less costly. For example, Germany have more hospital stays than the UK.

Further research is required, however, to better understand the reasons behind the differences identified in our research.

The total economic cost of cancer across the 27 countries was €126 billion in the year with lung cancer costing the most of any category.

The UK accounted for €14.4 billion of this cost. Altogether, 2.45 million people were diagnosed with cancer in Europe in 2008.

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