October 3, 2012
New studies that reveal for the first time the real economic and human costs of caring for cancer patients in Europe have been presented during the ESMO 2012 Congress of the European Society for Medical Oncology, in Vienna.
“Here we have two studies of enormous importance,” noted Prof Peter Boyle, President of the International Prevention Research Institute in Lyon, France, Member of the ESMO Faculty group on Cancer Prevention, who was not involved in the studies. “It is essential to have knowledge of the total costs of cancer and Dr Luengo-Fernandez and colleagues have performed a great service in preparing such a detailed report”.
“The remarkable study of Dr Gilloteau and colleagues provides unique information on the impact of cancer on care-givers. This again is key information and is almost unique. These studies provide a background on which logical funding decisions can be made,” Prof Boyle concluded.
Total cost 124 billion Euros each year… highest costs in Germany
Cancers cost the European Union 124 billion Euros each year, according to the first ever estimate of the economic burden of malignancies in the region. Lung cancer is responsible for the highest overall burden, the new study shows.
Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez from the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues included direct health costs such as primary care, hospital care and medications, as well as the cost of informal care and losses in productivity in their calculations. Their data came from a variety of sources including the WHO, the OECD and national ministries of health.
“Cancer poses a considerable economic burden not only to healthcare systems but to other areas of the economy, including productivity losses through early mortality and time-off-work, and relatives who have to forego work/leisure to care for cancer patients,” Dr Luengo-Fernandes said. “Healthcare systems will have a good idea, I expect, of the healthcare costs of providing cancer care to their patients. However, the productivity losses and informal care costs associated with cancer will be less well understood and their magnitude less appreciated.”
The researchers break their figures down by country, and by cancer. The lowest per-capita healthcare cost for cancer was 32 Euros per year in Lithuania, while the highest was in Germany where an average of 165 Euros was spent on healthcare for every person in the population. “The countries with the highest per-capita costs in terms of cancer healthcare tend to be Northern and Central European countries. Those with the lowest per-capita costs tend to be member states who joined the EU in 2004 and have lower national income levels,” Dr Luengo-Fernandez said.
Breast cancer had the highest healthcare costs, at 6 billion Euros each year, accounting for 13% of the total cancer healthcare costs in the EU. However, the highest total economic burden was attributable to lung cancer, a total of 19 billion Euros, of which 10 billion due to premature mortality. “One of the purposes of studies such as this one is to enable comparisons to be made between the burden of different diseases, aiding decision makers to prioritize scarce research funds,” Dr Luengo-Fernandez said. “In order to be in a better position to inform policy decisions there is a great need for improved information on epidemiology, healthcare resource use and unit costs across the EU.”
Commenting on the report, Prof Peter Boyle said: “It is essential that the economic impact of cancer on a community is known, understood and placed in its perspective. The greatest single economic cost was 6 billion Euros for breast cancer. This should be placed in the perspective that the economic cost of pneumonia in the EU is 10 billion Euros each year. The cost of cancer is not just the cost of drugs and hospital stays and this has been taken into account by Dr Luengo-Fernandez.”