A new study in the Lancet suggests that Britain is getting a good deal with regard to cancer drugs.
Research conducted by the authoritative journal indicates that the UK is paying significantly less for cancer drugs than many other wealthy nations.
While the UK, Greece, Spain and Portugal pay the least, on average, for the drugs that they utilise, Germany, Sweden and Switzerland pay the most.
The authors of the report stated that the process of purchasing cancer drugs en masse should be more transparent, owing to the fact that numerous nations apparently risk overpaying for critical drugs.
Considering the importance of the cancer treatments, this is clearly an urgent issue.
Nonetheless, it is at least good news for the British health industry that the UK is currently getting a good deal on medicines.
According to the report, drugs had accounted for nearly a third of the EU’s 51 billion euro (£37bn) cancer healthcare spending in 2009.
In order to get an accurate representation of the Western market, researchers assessed the pricing of 31 cancer drugs across 18 high-income countries in the Western world.
These included in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, France, Greece, Switzerland, Sweden and Portugal.
While cancer remains one of the biggest killers in the United Kingdom, the incidence of the disease also indicates its importance.
338,623 people in the UK were diagnosed with cancer in 2012.
Cancers of the breast, lung, prostate and bowel account for over half (53%) of all new cancer cases in the UK in 2012.
The Lancet found that prices of drugs in Switzerland, Germany and Sweden were frequently the highest – and for some drugs, such as interferon alfa 2b to treat leukaemia and skin cancer, the prices were twice as high.
It appears that at least patients and consumers in the UK are getting a reasonable deal on this key aspect of medicine.
Sabine Vogler, report author and researcher at the Austrian Public Health Institute, indicated that the system of discounts which operates at present led to the risk of some countries ovepaying for medicine.
“The discounts should be open to everyone, but industry doesn’t want to do it. However, it would allow some countries to see that they are overpaying.”
David Watson, director of pricing and reimbursement at the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, largely supported this view, but also indicated that the situation for the UK was favourable present.
Watson suggested that cancer medicines are currently “affordable in the UK”, and that the UK was “getting a fair deal with regards to medicines pricing,” while the NHS was “getting good value for money”.
A study entitled the Global Burden of Disease provides some interesting insights for the nation of England and NHS England as an organisation, according to the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (AMA).
And data published in The Lancet this week further underlines this critical issue.
The study highlights what has been described as “a huge opportunity for preventive public health”.
But it also paints a picture of musculoskeletal disorders remaining a serious problem, suggesting that this issue is under-prioritised when the enormous and growing burden of the problem is taken into consideration.
The AMA has particularly highlighted the problems illustrated by the Global Burden of Disease, and called for significant action within the United Kingdom.
Produced by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, the Global Burden of Diseases, Injuries, and Risk Factors Study is the largest and most comprehensive effort to date to measure epidemiological levels and trends worldwide.
The survey highlights that developed economies and nations such as the UK face a growing burden of disability, with larger numbers of residents living longer with increasingly long-term conditions.
Among the conditions of this nature identified by the study, musculoskeletal disorders are by far the single largest cause.
If this global survey wasn’t strong enough evidence in itself, then new data applied specifically to England that has been published in The Lancet journal brings the subject into sharper focus.
The data suggests that health services in England must do more to tackle conditions such as musculoskeletal disorders.
It is particularly suggested that integrated models of care and a sharply more preventative approach would be particularly effective.
Musculoskeletal disorders affect as many as ten million people across the United Kingdom, and have a massive impact on the NHS budget.
It is suggested by The Lancet study that muscular disorders are the fourth highest subject of spending in the NHS, accounting for £5 billion annually.
Additionally, muscular disorders impose a significant workload on staff within the NHS, yet are not being dealt with efficiently.
The Lancet study suggests that 40 per cent of the current NHS burden related to muscular disorders can be attributed to potentially preventable risk factors.
Findings from the study indicate that treatment for musculoskeletal diseases within the UK tends to be based on “incomplete data at subnational level, and the level of inequality for many disorders is likely to be underestimated.”
And the study also suggests that there is insufficient strategic provision for muscular disorders within the NHS, despite the evidence that such complaints are increasing.
Prof Anthony Woolf, Chair of the Arthritis and Musculoskeletal Alliance (ARMA) and co-author of the study, suggested that the evidence indicated that a change of tack and organisation related to the issue is essential.
“The new…evidence published in The Lancet paints a familiar and compelling picture which requires us to take stock of where resources need to be invested in order to successfully meet the challenges not just of tomorrow, but of today. This means a better understanding of the risk factors behind the growing burden of disability in this country, and a greater emphasis on tackling some of the major causes of this through a more joined-up and preventive approach. [Musculoskeletal] disorders in particular must not be an afterthought but must constitute a central focus for national and local strategies aimed at improving health and well-being across the board,” Woolf stated.
Dr. Liam O’Toole, chief executive of charity Arthritis Research UK, added: “Today’s study provides conclusive evidence that for too long, the needs of the millions of people in the UK living with neck, back pain and osteoarthritis have been ignored. This is an issue that will not go away.”