Market access of cancer drugs in European countries: improving resource allocation

Target Oncol. 2014 Jun;9(2):95-110. doi: 10.1007/s11523-013-0301-x. Epub 2013 Nov 19.


Public health systems need to make well-founded choices in order to distribute their scarce resources in the most efficient way. Given the number of cancer patients, public/private investments in oncology research, the growing number of new anti-cancer agents and consequent budget impact of cancer care, market access of cancer drugs has become delicate over the last decade. Furthermore, decision makers are challenged by ethical objections and endeavour to provide fair and equal access to treatments for cancer patients. The aim of this study is to generate an overview of market access procedures for cancer drugs in eight European countries and formulate advice for improvement of resource allocation. Results are obtained through a literature review and a qualitative questionnaire and validated by experts with proven knowledge about procedures for price setting and reimbursement of drugs. Diverse measures are applied in the studied countries to optimize reimbursement of cancer drugs such as adjusted cost-effectiveness threshold, regulations for off-label use and new market access agreements. Additionally, innovative cancer drugs are excluded from explicit cost control measures such as payback of budget excess by pharmaceutical companies and lump-sum payments per diagnostic related groups (DRG) in the hospital. The results suggest that cancer is prioritized above other disease areas. Further research is necessary to address the question if society attaches higher value to cancer drugs than to treatments for other diseases.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / supply & distribution*
  • Europe
  • Health Care Rationing / economics*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / economics


  • Antineoplastic Agents