Cancer Drugs Provide Positive Value In Nine Countries, But The United States Lags In Health Gains Per Dollar Spent

Health Aff (Millwood). 2016 May 1;35(5):813-23. doi: 10.1377/hlthaff.2015.1453.


Cancer drugs account for a growing share of health care expenditure, raising questions about how much value is gained from their use. We used a proprietary international data set to examine real-world cancer drug consumption and expenditure in the period 2004-14 in Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States and to explore the value obtained. Even after adjusting for population and epidemiological factors, we found that the United States spent more than the other countries on cancer drugs, yet it often had lower utilization. All nine countries-most notably France and Japan-witnessed an improvement in neoplasm-related years of potential life lost, which suggests that although the costs of drugs have risen, their therapeutic benefits have increased as well. Net economic value derived from cancer drug expenditures appears to have remained positive, with base-case analyses indicating that the United States obtained an estimated $32.6 billion in net positive return from cancer drug care in 2014. However, the United States lags behind other countries in health gains obtained per dollar spent on cancer drugs, which suggests an opportunity to improve value in the oncology drug market.

Keywords: Oncology; comparative study; drug expenditure; value.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Databases, Factual
  • Global Health
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Health Expenditures / trends*
  • Humans
  • Models, Economic
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents