Background: The treatment of childhood cancer often is assumed to be costly in African settings, thereby limiting advocacy and policy efforts. The authors determined the cost and cost-effectiveness of maintaining childhood cancer centers across 4 hospitals throughout sub-Saharan Africa.
Methods: Within hospitals representing 4 countries (Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe), cost was determined either retrospectively or prospectively for all inputs related to operating a pediatric cancer unit (eg, laboratory costs, medications, and salaries). Cost-effectiveness was calculated based on the annual number of newly diagnosed patients, survival rates, and life expectancy.
Results: Cost per new diagnosis ranged from $2400 to $31,000, attributable to variances with regard to center size, case mix, drug prices, admission practices, and the treatment abandonment rate, which also affected survival. The most expensive cost input was found to be associated with medication in Kenya, and medical personnel in the other 3 centers. The cost per disability-adjusted life-year averted ranged from 0.3 to 3.6 times the per capita gross national income. Childhood cancer treatment therefore was considered to be very cost-effective by World Health Organization standards in 2 countries and cost-effective in 1 additional country. In all centers, abandonment of treatment was common; modeling exercises suggested that public funding of treatment, additional psychosocial personnel, and modifications of inpatient policies would increase survival rates while maintaining or even improving cost-effectiveness.
Conclusions: Across various African countries, childhood cancer treatment units represent cost-effective interventions. Cost-effectiveness can be increased through the control of drug prices, appropriate policy environments, and decreasing the rate of treatment abandonment. These results will inform national childhood cancer strategies across Africa.
Keywords: childhood cancer; cost-effectiveness; strategies; sub-Saharan Africa.
© 2020 American Cancer Society.