Ireland has fifth highest cancer bill per citizen of EU states

In-patient care accounts for 67% of Irish cancer bill – the highest proportion in EU

Relatives and friends of cancer sufferers provided three billion hours of unpaid care, worth €23.2 billion, while lost productivity caused by illness and early death is put at €52 billion, according to the Lancet Oncology study.

Relatives and friends of cancer sufferers provided three billion hours of unpaid care, worth €23.2 billion, while lost productivity caused by illness and early death is put at €52 billion, according to the Lancet Oncology study.

 

Ireland has the fifth highest cancer care bill per citizen in the EU, but the proportion of its cancer health bill that Ireland spends on treating patients in hospital is the highest in the EU, according to the first study of the financial costs of the disease.

Cancer cost the EU €126 billion in health bills and lost productivity in 2009, with two-thirds of that total faced by just four countries: Germany, France, Italy, and the UK. Spending on cancer care varies widely in the EU: Luxembourg spends €184 per citizen; Germany spends €182, while Ireland comes fifth in the table, spending €139 per citizen.

The proportion of the health bill spent on in-patient care also differed widely between EU states, taking up 30 per cent of the budget in Slovakia, but as much as 67 per cent in Ireland. The average across the EU was 56 per cent.

“Some countries rely heavily on in-patient services to provide cancer care while others resort more to outpatient services, which are in most cases considerably less costly,” said the head of the study, Dr Luengo-Fernandez.

However, the study, published today in Lancet Oncology, showed that just 40 per cent of the bill created by the disease is medical. “The rest is incurred by patients’ families, friends, and society overall.”

Relatives and friends of sufferers provided three billion hours of unpaid care, worth €23.2 billion, while lost productivity caused by illness and early death is put at €52 billion.


Research
Researchers from Oxford University, King’s College and KHP Cancer Centre UK drew on Eurostat, World Health Organisation and national figures. Lung cancer has the highest bill, costing €18.8 billion, though breast cancer is the most expensive to treat, because of the cost of the drugs used.

Ireland spends €619 million on cancer-related health costs: €417 million on in-patient care; €127 million on drugs; and just €32 million on primary care. In all, cancer consumes 4 per cent of total health spending in Ireland.

Despite the level of detail, researchers warn the figures are conservative, since data on some costs – health screening, for one – could not be adequately collected in all states.

The research would help policymakers allocate research funds and improve value for money, Dr Luengo-Fernandez said.

Similar research in the past has shown that the economic bill left by cardiovascular disease in the EU is one-third higher than for cancer. However, the productivity losses caused by cancer are nearly double those caused by cardiovascular disease because so many cancer deaths occur in younger people.

In 2009, cancer killed 1.24 million people in the EU.