Value assessment in oncology drugs: funding of drugs for metastatic breast cancer in Canada

Curr Oncol. 2018 Jun;25(Suppl 1):S161-S170. doi: 10.3747/co.25.3846. Epub 2018 Jun 13.


Background: Life expectancy for women with metastatic breast cancer has improved since the early 2000s, in part because of the introduction of novel therapies, including chemotherapy, hormonal therapy, and targeted agents. However, those treatments can come at a cost for the patient (short- and long-term toxicities from treatment) and at a financial cost for the health care system. Given the increase in the number of costly anticancer agents being introduced into the clinical setting, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (asco) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (esmo) have developed a system to quantify the value of new cancer treatments in terms of benefit, toxicities, and costs.

Methods: In our value-assessment analysis, we included drugs that were funded in Canada between 2012 and 2017 for metastatic breast cancer. We reviewed the clinical benefit of those agents (survival, progression, quality of life), their costs, their value according to the asco and esmo value frameworks, and their assessments from the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review [pcodr (in Canada, except Quebec)] and the Institut national d'excellence en santé et en services sociaux [iness (in Quebec)].

Results: Drugs funded in Canada showed variation in their asco net health benefit scores and esmo magnitude of clinical benefit scores, but all had a cost-effectiveness ratio greater than $100,000 per quality-adjusted life-year. The strength and magnitude of the clinical benefit (for example, overall survival benefit vs. progression-free survival benefit) was not necessarily associated with a higher value score.

Conclusions: Although great progress has been made in developing value frameworks, use of those frameworks has to be refined to help patients and health care providers make informed decisions about the benefit of novel cancer therapies and to help policymakers make decisions about the societal benefit of funding those therapies.

Keywords: Chemotherapy; breast cancer; targeted therapy; toxicities; value.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / economics*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / therapeutic use
  • Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Breast Neoplasms / economics*
  • Breast Neoplasms / epidemiology
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Canada / epidemiology
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Decision Making
  • Drug Costs* / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Medical Oncology* / economics
  • Medical Oncology* / statistics & numerical data
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Quality of Life
  • Quality-Adjusted Life Years
  • Quebec / epidemiology
  • Societies, Medical
  • Survival Analysis


  • Antineoplastic Agents