Health technology assessment for cancer medicines across the G7 countries and Oceania: an international, cross-sectional study

Lancet Oncol. 2023 Jun;24(6):624-635. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(23)00175-4.


Background: Criticisms have emerged that cancer medicines offer modest benefits at increasingly high prices. Reimbursement decisions made by health technology assessment (HTA) agencies have become a complex endeavour for cancer medicines. Most high-income countries (HICs) use HTA criteria to identify high-value medicines for reimbursement under public drug coverage plans. We compared HTA criteria specific for cancer medicines in economically similar HICs, to understand how these criteria contribute to reimbursement decisions.

Methods: We did an international, cross-sectional analysis in collaboration with author investigators across eight HICs, from the Group of Seven (known as G7; Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, and Japan) and Oceania (Australia and New Zealand). Publicly available data from HTA agency reports and official documentation were extracted and analysed between Aug 15, 2021, and July 31, 2022. We collected data pertaining to the decision-making criteria used by the national HTA agency; HTA reimbursement status for 34 medicine-indication pairs corresponding to 15 unique US top-selling cancer medicines; and HTA reimbursement status for 18 cancer medicine-indication pairs (13 unique medicines) with minimal clinical benefit (score of 1 on the European Society of Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale). Descriptive statistics were used to compare HTA decision criteria and drug reimbursement recommendations (or for Germany and Japan, final reimbursement status) across the eight countries.

Findings: Therapeutic impact related to clinical outcomes of the new medicine was a uniform criterion across the eight countries, whereas quality of evidence (under the remit of therapeutic impact assessment) and equity were infrequently cited criteria. Only the German HTA agency mandated that surrogate endpoints be validated in therapeutic impact assessment. All countries except Germany included formal cost-effectiveness analyses within HTA reports. England and Japan were the only countries that specified a cost-effectiveness threshold. Of the 34 medicine-indication pairs corresponding to US top-selling cancer medicines, Germany reimbursed the maximum (34 [100%]), followed by Italy (32 [94%] recommended for reimbursement), Japan (28 [82%] reimbursed), Australia, Canada, England, and France (27 [79%] recommended for reimbursement), and New Zealand (12 [35%] recommended for reimbursement). Of the 18 cancer medicine-indication pairs with marginal clinical benefit, Germany reimbursed 15 (83%) and Japan reimbursed 12 (67%). France recommended nine (50%) for reimbursement, followed by Italy (seven [39%]), Canada (five [28%]), and Australia and England (three [17%] each). New Zealand did not recommend any medicine-indications with marginal clinical benefit for reimbursement. Considering the overall cumulative proportion across the eight countries, 58 (21%) of 272 indications for the US top-selling medicines and 90 (63%) of 144 marginally beneficial medicine-indications were not recommended for reimbursement or reimbursed.

Interpretation: Our findings indicate discordance in public reimbursement decisions across economically similar countries, despite overlapping HTA decision criteria. This suggests a need for improved transparency around the nuances of the criteria to ensure improved access to high-value cancer medicines, and deprioritisation of low-value cancer medicines. Health systems have opportunities to improve their HTA decision-making processes by learning from the systems in other countries.

Funding: None.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • France
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms* / drug therapy
  • Oceania
  • Technology Assessment, Biomedical*

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