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”.