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Irish Cancer Society: 'A dialogue on the high price of drugs needs to happen'

The body charged with assessing the cost effectiveness of drugs for the HSE said two cancer treatments are too costly.

Drugs
Drugs

TWO CANCER TREATMENTS for both lung and breast cancer have been deemed “not cost effective” by the National Centre for Pharmacoeconomics (NCPE).

The NCPE is the body that assesses the cost effectiveness of pharmaceutical products for the HSE. The NCPE found that crizotinib, which can be used to treat lung cancer, and pertuzumab, for breast cancer, should not be made available to Irish patients on grounds of cost effectiveness.

The cost

They stated that the monthly treatment cost of crizotinib is €6,457. In their report it stated:

Assuming treatment duration of 7.7 months… this equates to €49,719 per treatment course.

The NCPE stated that based on the National Cancer Registry, the projected number of patients treated with crizotinib will increase from 16 patients in 2013 to 36 patients in 2017.

In relation to Pertuzumab, which is used to treat adults with HER2-positive breast cancer, the NCPE said it would cost about €74,000 per patient over an 18-month course of treatment.

The stated that this cancer treatment would cost the HSE about €39 million over five years.

This is not the first time that the cost of treatments have caused controversy. The NCPE previously deemed that other drugs for cancer and cystic fibrosis were not cost effective either, but due to the public’s will, the Minister for Health James Reilly had to weigh in and make the drugs available to patients.

Appropriately priced drugs

In a statement on the two recommendations, The Irish Cancer Society said it wants Irish patients to have access to oncology drugs that are both clinically significant and appropriately priced. They said:

We acknowledge that because the Government’s health budget is limited, decisions have to be made on which drugs will be reimbursed and which will not.

While accepting that there are high costs for some  innovative oncology pharmaceuticals, the Irish Cancer Society said “it could greatly benefit cancer patients if a dialogue on drug prices could begin. If the outcome of that discussion was that prices were reduced, the NCPE may be able to approve a greater volume of clinically significant treatments, thereby benefitting a wider patient population”.

Additional funds

They said they welcomed the additional provision of €17 million in the HSE’s Services Plan for 2013 to address increased costs, but that given the high cost of cancer drugs, they would like to see a discussion on the price of oncology drugs to take place.

They stated that it would “be very timely and potentially beneficial to cancer patients”.

Read: Breakthrough in childhood cancer treatment made by Irish scientists>

Column: ‘I was in work one day and diagnosed with cancer the next’>

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