Cancer drug costs set to rise by 22 per cent
The cost of cancer drugs in Irish hospitals will rise by nearly 22 per cent this year, according to the director of the National Cancer Control Programme.
Dr Susan O’Reilly estimated that the cost of the top 10 cancer drugs in hospitals will be €62.5 million, an increase of 21.6 per cent on the €51.4 million spent in 2011.
The extra costs include €3 million reserved for the malignant melanoma drug Ipilimumab (trade name Yervoy) which was approved this year after a controversy involving patients and their families. That cost is expected to rise to €7 million next year for a full year.
Speaking at the Irish Pharmaceutical Healthcare Association annual conference last week, Dr O’Reilly said the spend of cancer drugs in the Irish healthcare system was progressing towards €200 million a year from €150 million, an increase of one-third.
Dr O’Reilly said the high cost of cancer drugs was down to the high failure rates.
Pharmaceutical companies typically produce one cancer drug for every 10 that get regulatory approval.
The latest drug to be approved in the Republic is abiraterone acetate (trade name Zytiga), produced by Janssen Biotech, which will be available from next week to a small group of men in late stages of prostate cancer that has spread to their bones.
About 160 patients are eligible for the post-chemotherapy treatment of metastatic advanced prostate cancer that has progressed after developing resistance to conventional hormonal therapies.
She said the cost of the drug was “substantially above” the €45,000 per quality-adjusted life year that is the threshold for pharmacoeconomic approval, but such drugs were being reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
She added that a properly funded cancer care programme could lead to a 10 per cent increase in the five-year survival rate for Irish cancer patients across the board.
It is anticipated the number of people in Ireland with cancer will double to 55,000 new cases a year by 2035 because of the ageing population.