Valuing the benefits of new anticancer drugs

Nicola J Lawrence, Glenn Salkeld, Martin R Stockler and Deme Karikios
Med J Aust 2016; 204 (11): . || doi: 10.5694/mja15.01362
Published online: 20 June 2016

Improvements in survival and cancer-related symptoms must be weighed up against treatment-related adverse effects and financial burden

Annual expenditure on anticancer drugs by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) has risen from $65 million in 1999–00 to $466 million in 2011–12 — an average annual increase of 19%.1 This is more than double Australia’s average annual increase in health expenditure of 8% over the same period.2 New techniques in radiation oncology and surgical oncology have also increased expenditure on cancer. It has never been more important to assess the value of new cancer treatments, weighing up the balance between benefits, harms and costs. In oncology, clinical benefit is defined by improvements in survival and cancer-related symptoms, and must be traded off against treatment-related adverse effects and financial burden. In Australia, evaluation of the trade-offs for new anticancer drugs has been predominantly a matter of health care policy, and determined by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee (PBAC).

  • Nicola J Lawrence1
  • Glenn Salkeld2
  • Martin R Stockler1,3
  • Deme Karikios1

  • 1 NHMRC Clinical Trials Centre, University of Sydney, Sydney, NSW
  • 2 University of Wollongong, Wollongong, NSW
  • 3 Sydney Cancer Centre, Chris O'Brien Lifehouse, Sydney, NSW

Competing interests:

No relevant disclosures.


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