The positioning of economic principles under the changing conditions of the novel drug developmental process in cancer
Cancer is a major burden to the health care system, presently mainly in developed countries, but is rapidly becoming a problem of similar magnitude in developing countries. Cancer ranks number two or three measured in loss of “good years of life” in Europe. The direct cost of cancer are estimated to be around 50% of total health care costs and of these costs a major part is linked to cancer drugs. With the ongoing revolution in the understanding of cancer and the development of an increasing number of new, but often very costly drugs, the health care systems in all parts of the world need to have a systematic way of evaluating new cancer drugs. Health technology assessment (HTA) now plays a major role in many parts of Europe. HTA has its focus on determining the value of new innovations in order to balance allocation of health care resources in a fair and equal way. This paper reviews the HTA process in general and for cancer drugs specifically. The key findings are that cancer drugs must be evaluated in a similar way as other health care technologies. One must however take into account that cancer drugs are often approved with a high level of uncertainty. Thus, it is of key importance that not only clinical efficacy, i.e., effect in pivotal clinical trials, is taken into account, but that there is a great need for follow-up studies so that post regulatory approval is able to properly measure population based effects [clinical effectiveness (CLE)].