- The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), an alliance of 26 cancer centers, will launch the "NCCN Scale" for cancer treatment cost/benefit analysis in mid-October.
- The scale will use "evidence blocks" to score five different measures on a score of 1 to 5. The measures include price, effectiveness, safety, quality and consistency of clinical data.
- This tool is intended to be used as a supplement to the NCCN's existing guidelines for oncology care, which have protocols based on treating a rnage of cancers in accordance with diagnosis, disease stage, age, and other factors.
The top-line goal of the NCCN Scale is to introduce an element of logic into decisions made around which drugs to use, with a focus on price versus benefits. Currently, the NCCN has roughly 700,000 registered users. In addition, last year, more than six million copies of its guidelines were downloaded. The new scale is a much needed addition to a growing assortment of tools being used to assess cancer-treatment costs, including the interactive "Drug Abacus" from New York's Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Treatment Center.
According to the IMS, the market for cancer treatments reached $100 billion last year, which included $42 billion spent in the U.S. Many physicians are not aware of the cost-benefit ratio of various drugs and are driven instead by their understanding of a drug based on published data or patients' preference. In addition, some physicians are unfortunately driven by financial incentives, because they make a profit on intravenous drugs administered in their offices.
The overall goal obviously is to save money in an environment where there is more focus on restraining costs, even as the cost of oncology drugs is increasing rapidly. It basically comes down to looking at how much an additional month of life costs and how longstanding a treatment benefit it. For example, treatment of refractory colorectal cancer wtih Bayer's Stivarga has been shown to add two weeks of quality adjusted life, for the cost of roughly $40,000. Many think that this is out of whack. Now physicians and other decision makers will have another tool to make more rational treatment decisions.