A major new study has found substantial differences in the formulary availability, out-of-pocket costs, and actual availability of anticancer medicines across Europe. The European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) European Consortium Study on the Availability of Antineoplastic Medicines was published by Cherny et al in Annals of Oncology.1
This ESMO-initiated survey gathered data from 46 European countries and was carried out in cooperation with researchers from the Union for International Cancer Control, the Institute of Cancer Policy of King’s College London, and the European Society of Oncology Pharmacy.
Josep Tabernero, MD, PhD
Josep Tabernero, MD, PhD, ESMO President Elect, explained, “As the leading European professional organization for medical oncology, ESMO is a passionate advocate for the availability and accessibility of the most appropriate treatments for all cancer patients, regardless of their country of residence or specific circumstances. ESMO has an important part to play in assisting national institutions and individual oncologists alike in their clinical decision-making, by defining the magnitude, value, and efficacy of different diagnostic and treatment options. The survey marks a significant step, because it gives health authorities across Europe the data they need to assess whether anticancer medicines are available to patients who are prescribed them.”
Nathan Cherny, MD
Coauthor Nathan Cherny, MD, of Shaare Zedek Medical Centre, Jerusalem, said, “The study found that the differences in the formulary availability, out-of-pocket costs to patients, and actual availability of many anticancer medicines are most profound in countries with lower levels of economic development, particularly in Eastern Europe, and are largely related to the cost of new agents developed and licensed in the past 10 years. The impact of these disparities is most keenly felt by patients with incurable diseases, where improved outcomes are dependent on expensive anticancer agents. In contrast, the disparities are less pronounced in curative situations, where treatments such as adjuvant therapy for HER2-positive breast cancer patients, for example, is generally subsidized and available in most countries.”
Alexandru Eniu, MD, PhD
“For those committed to ensuring equal access to cancer care, this is a landmark study that lays out the extent of current inequities and opens the discussion as to how to begin addressing them,” said ESMO Executive Board member and study coauthor, Alexandru Eniu, MD, PhD. “Sustainable cancer care relies on information, and ESMO has always taken an objective, evidence-based approach in order to assist clinical decision-making…. As a direct result of this survey, ESMO has established a Cancer Medicines Working Group which is assessing the accessibility and availability of different anticancer medicines.” ■