Cancer is a major burden on populations and health systems internationally. The development of innovative cancer medicines is seen as a significant part of the solution. These new cancer medicines are, however, expensive, leading to limited or delayed access and disagreements among stakeholders about which medicines to fund. There is no obvious resolution to these disagreements, with stakeholders holding firmly to divergent positions. Access to cancer medicines was recently explored in Australia in a Senate Inquiry into the Availability of New, Innovative, and Specialist Cancer Drugs in Australia. We analysed the resultant Senate Report to identify competing stakeholder values. Our analysis illustrates that there are four main “goods” prioritized by different stakeholders: 1) innovation, 2) compassion, 3) equity, and 4) sustainability. We observe that, with the exception of sustainability, all of these “goods” put pressure on payers to provide access to cancer medicines more quickly and based on less rigorous evaluation processes. We then explore the consequences of giving in to such pressure and suggest that deconstructing the implicit values in calls for “enhanced access” to cancer medicines is necessary so that more nuanced solutions to the challenge of providing access to these high cost medicines can be found.
- High cost drugs