Oncologists' Perceptions of Drug Affordability Using NCCN Evidence Blocks: Results from a National Survey

J Manag Care Spec Pharm. 2018 Jun;24(6):565-571. doi: 10.18553/jmcp.2018.17449. Epub 2018 Feb 16.


Background: The increasing prevalence of cancer coupled with approvals of new drugs and technologies used in therapy have brought increased scrutiny to the cost and value of treatments in oncology. To address the rising concern about oncology drug costs, several organizations have developed value frameworks to help assess the value of oncology regimens. The objective of this study was to assess oncologists' perceptions, awareness, and knowledge of all oncology value frameworks in the United States and to understand oncologists' perceptions of affordability in the context of National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) Evidence Blocks.

Objectives: To (a) assess oncologists' awareness, knowledge, perceptions, and ratings of the American Society of Clinical Oncology Value Framework (AVF), the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) value framework, NCCN Evidence Blocks, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center's DrugAbacus; (b) assess oncologists' knowledge and perceptions of drug affordability as defined by the NCCN Evidence Blocks methodology; and (c) determine the factors that influence drug affordability ratings.

Methods: Data were collected from an electronic cross-sectional survey of 200 U.S.-based oncologists from a variety of practice settings. Oncologists were asked about their knowledge and perceptions of 4 value frameworks-NCCN Evidence Blocks, AVF, the ICER value framework, and DrugAbacus. Using NCCN Evidence Blocks, oncologists were asked to rate a variety of hypothetical cancer therapies and assign costs (in U.S. dollars) to the 5 levels of affordability. Additional questions that assessed perceived patient out-of-pocket (OOP) costs and comfort level in assessing affordability were also included in the survey.

Results: Oncologists were most familiar with NCCN Evidence Blocks (90%), followed by the AVF (84%), ICER value framework (57%), and DrugAbacus (56%). Oncologists rated affordability higher (mean rating 3: moderately expensive) versus the actual NCCN panel affordability rating (mean rating 1: very expensive). The affordability rating was similar across a variety of hypothetical cancer therapies and tumor types (rating: 3). Oncologists estimated the costs for this rating of 3 to range from $4,600 to $6,000 per month, which was inconsistent with actual drug costs. Oncologists estimated the mean monthly OOP costs for patients with insurance to range from $1,260 for a new oral medication to $1,700 for a new infused medication. Only 26% of oncologists were comfortable or very comfortable with rating costs associated with affordability levels.

Conclusions: Surveyed oncologists rated cancer therapies as more affordable (per NCCN Evidence Blocks criteria) than NCCN panel ratings. Costs associated with affordability were not consistent with actual treatment costs; however, most oncologists were not comfortable with rating affordability. Patient OOP costs had the biggest influence on affordability ratings; however, physicians overestimated patient OOP costs significantly. There is an opportunity to improve the value frameworks, especially with regard to affordability assessment.

Disclosures: This study was funded by Genentech. Shah-Manek is employed by Ipsos Healthcare, a health care consulting company that received funding from Genentech to conduct this study. DiBonaventura was employed by Ipsos Healthcare at the time of this study. Wong and Ravelo are employed by Genentech. Shah-Manek has consulted with Genentech, Merck, Alkermes, Avanis, Alnylam, Novo Nordisk, Teva, Lilly, and BMS. This work was presented as an oral presentation at the ASCO 2017 Annual Meeting in Chicago, Illinois, on June 2-6, 2017.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Competence / economics
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Fees, Pharmaceutical / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Costs
  • Health Expenditures / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Models, Economic
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / economics
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Oncologists / psychology
  • Oncologists / statistics & numerical data*
  • Perception
  • Prevalence
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States


  • Antineoplastic Agents