Negotiating limits to the funding of high cost cancer medicines

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The cost of pharmaceuticals is overwhelming health budgets around the world. A growing proportion of this burden stems from the ever-increasing demand for subsidisation of cancer medicines. Those making decisions about which cancer medicines should be subsidised are often criticised by patients, clinicians and the pharmaceutical industry for withholding life-saving treatments from patients in desperate need. While their arguments are emotionally compelling, these critics often fail to recognise the complexity of resource allocation decisions, and the challenges faced by those making such decisions. In this article we describe two of these challenges: 1) the need for decision-makers to balance their desire to rescue those in desperate need against their responsibility to consider population-level opportunity costs and to make decisions based on solid evidence of cost-effectiveness; and 2) their need to negotiate 'fair' prices for medicines when they lack negotiating power, and when prices seem to be more reflective of what the 'market will bear' than what the medicines are really 'worth'. We conclude that, while there is no easy solution to these challenges, there is a need for greater transparency and procedural fairness, so that stakeholders are both more alert to the complexity of decisions about funding high cost cancer medicines, and more willing to accept the outcomes of these decisions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)119-122
Number of pages4
JournalCancer Forum
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2016
Externally publishedYes


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