Examining Trends in Cost and Clinical Benefit of Novel Anticancer Drugs Over Time

J Oncol Pract. 2018 May;14(5):e280-e294. doi: 10.1200/JOP.17.00058. Epub 2018 Mar 30.


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to determine if clinical benefits of novel anticancer drugs, measured by the ASCO Value Framework and European Society of Medical Oncology (ESMO) Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale, have increased over time in parallel with increasing costs.

Methods: Anticancer drugs from phase III randomized controlled trials cited for clinical efficacy evidence in drug approvals between January 2006 to December 2015 were identified and scored using both frameworks. For each drug, the monthly price and incremental anticancer drug costs were calculated. Relationships between cost and year of approval were examined using generalized linear regressions models. Ordinary least square models were used to evaluate relationships between ASCO and ESMO scores and year of approval. Spearman correlation coefficients between costs and clinical benefit scores were calculated.

Results: In total, 42 randomized controlled trials were included. Both monthly prices and incremental anticancer drug costs were significantly associated with year of approval and showed an average annual increase of 9% and 21%, respectively. The predicted mean incremental anticancer drug cost increased from $30,447 in 2006 to $161,141 in 2015 (greater than five-fold increase). Both ASCO and ESMO scores were not statistically associated with year of approval or correlated with monthly prices or incremental anticancer drug costs.

Conclusion: Over the past decade, costs of novel oncology drugs have increased, while clinical benefits of these medications have not experienced a proportional positive change. The incremental anticancer drug costs have increased at a much greater rate than monthly prices, indicating that the increase in anticancer drug costs may be higher than commonly reported.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Clinical Trials, Phase III as Topic
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis*
  • Drug Costs*
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Medical Oncology / economics*
  • Medical Oncology / history
  • Medical Oncology / trends
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / epidemiology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic


  • Antineoplastic Agents