Rising cost of anticancer drugs in Australia

D. J. Karikios*, D. Schofield, G. Salkeld, K. P. Mann, J. Trotman, M. R. Stockler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Anticancer drugs are often expensive and are contributing to the growing cost of cancer care. Concerns have been raised about the effect rising costs may have on availability of new anticancer drugs.

Aim: This study aims to determine the recent changes in the costs of anticancer drugs in Australia.

Methods: Publicly available expenditure and prices paid by the Australian Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) for anticancer drugs from 2000 to 2012 were reviewed. The measures used to determine changes in cost were total PBS expenditure and average price paid by the PBS per prescription for anticancer drugs and for all PBS listed drugs. An estimated monthly price paid for newly listed anticancer drugs was also calculated.

Results: Annual PBS expenditure on anticancer drugs rose from A$65 million in 1999-2000 to A$466 million in 2011-2012; an average increase of 19% per annum. The average price paid by the PBS per anticancer drug prescription, adjusted for inflation, increased 133% from A$337 to A$786. The real average annual increase in the price per anticancer drug prescription was more than double that for all other PBS drugs combined (7.6% vs 2.8%, difference 4.8%, 95% confidence interval -0.4% to 10.1%, P = 0.07). The median price for a month's treatment of the new anticancer drugs listed was A$4919 (range A$1003 to A$12578, 2012 prices).

Conclusions: PBS expenditure and the price of anticancer drugs in Australia rose substantially from 2000 to 2012. Dealing with these burgeoning costs will be a major challenge for our health system and for those affected by cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)458-463
Number of pages6
JournalInternal Medicine Journal
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - May 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer
  • Drug cost
  • Healthcare cost
  • Pharmaceutical benefit scheme

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