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Costs of cancer drugs:German experts complain

A group of leading German health care experts has called on the Federal Government to set up an independent body to control the introduction of new cancer drugs on to the market, according to media reports using leaked confidential material.

20 Jun 2010

A group of leading German health care experts has called on the Federal Government to set up an independent body to control the introduction of new cancer drugs on to the market, according to media reports using leaked confidential material.

There is a German Institute for Quality and Efficiency in Health Care but it has never been asked to investigate the efficacy of cancer medications, though chief executive Dr Peter Sawicki has called cancer therapy in Germany “a holy cow”, the health insurance companies having no idea what to do if the efficacy of drugs is called into question.

The experts have put to the German Health Ministry that the price of new cancer drugs should be measured by whether or not they work in normal clinical settings, instead of the current method - in clinical trials of selected patient groups.

They are said to be unlikely to have their way: the German Government has already announced some attempts to get the drug companies to curb prices and disclose standard-setting procedures in a political atmosphere in which the companies are said to exert undue influence.

The new measures are not harsh. The companies will only be permitted to sell new products at prices they themselves set for one year after their introduction to the market. In addition, they must submit information on (among other things) each product’s approved applications, its superiority over standard treatments, its costs, the numbers of patients who will benefit by it and its scope for treating other patient groups.

Insurers and hospitals have been trying to do price deals with the companies but it has not often worked, the current price of Avastin in Germany still being about $A80,000 a year, Iressa $A62,000 and Herceptin $A56,000.


Published: 20 Jun 2010