ASCO Offers Solutions to Improving Value in Cancer Drug Costs

07/19/17

A new position statement from the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) offers multiple potential solutions to make cancer care more affordable.

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Cost of cancer drugs has been steadily increasing in recent years, especially in the United States. Various approaches to slowing the pace of drug prices have been proposed. In a new statement, ASCO analyzes these approaches and suggests that a panel of stakeholders convene to determine which approaches may be effective and to develop a uniform method of assessing the value of drugs. The agreed upon solution must emphasize access to care and foster innovation, according to the statement.

"We need our nation's leaders to tackle the major drivers of patients' cost burdens, including rising prices," said Clifford A Hudis, MD, Chief Executive Officer, ASCO, in an interview (July 19, 2017). "In what, undoubtedly, is one of the most difficult times in their lives, individuals with cancer should be focused on getting the best care possible, not worrying about financial strain on their families.”

ASCO proposes numerous modest “experiments” to determine if any model can help decrease costs without compromising innovation or access to care. Among these “experiments” are value-based pathways, indication-specific pricing, and outcomes-based pricing. ASCO supports the use of generics and biosimilar drugs, as well as granting Medicaid the ability to negotiate prices, but does not offer its support to bundled payments or tiered formularies.

Critical to developing policies that address the affordability of cancer drugs is the involvement of all stakeholders, including providers, patient advocates, payers, hospitals, experts in health economics and outcomes, representatives from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries, members of Congress, and administration policy makers.

Additionally, ASCO stresses the need for a “real and consistent” relationship between cost and the benefits of a drug. Such a relationship is fostered through value frameworks, which ASCO first released in 2015 and continues to update annually, and which the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) has also provided.

"There is no simple solution to escalating drug prices, and many differing views on what constitutes value in cancer treatment," the statement asserts.—Zachary Bessette