Study: Cancer drugs most expensive in US, least accessible in China, India
- In a study that evaluated cost of major cancer drugs as a percentage of per capita GDP in seven countries, monthly prices for cancer drugs were highest in the U.S. and lowest in India and South Africa. Results were presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago.
- Using the same metrics, researchers determined that cancer drugs are most affordable in Australia and least affordable in China and India, where average annual per capita income is low.
- The global cancer market is expected to surpass $150 billion by 2020.
Across the board, median cancer drug prices in the U.S. are higher than other countries, and in some cases many times more expensive. In terms of the median price of generic cancer drugs, the cost in the U.S. came in at $654 per month, compared with $120 at the low end in South Africa.
Differences in the costs of brand-name cancer drugs was equally striking. In the U.S. median montlhly prices for this class were $8,694 per month, compared with $1,515 per month in India.
While it seems that consumers in places like India and China would be in a better position to access cancer drugs, that's not the case. Using the metric 'domestic product per capita at purchasing power parity,' researchers found that in India, the cost of generics was 33% of that metric, and the cost of brand-name cancer drugs was 313% of that metric. Compare that to the U.S. where the cost of generics represented 14% of the purchasing power metric, while brand-name cancer drugs were 192% of that metric.
The overall takeaway is that cancer drugs, which cost an average of $10,000 per month in the U.S. (for branded products), are largely unaffordable worldwide -- especially branded drugs, which exceed income across the board. Patients in the developing world are most severely impacted and often have to opt for suboptimal drug treatment regimens.