The rapidly escalating cost of treating colorectal cancer in Australia

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Abstract

Aims:

Considerable progress in cancer treatment is leading to better outcomes, but the cost of therapy is placing increasing pressure on the health system. Understanding the real-world cost of therapies for each stage will become increasingly important in informing treatment selection and health policy.

Methods:

To explore the cost of treating colorectal cancer in the modern era, data were entered onto a prospective database at four hospitals. We estimated the impact of bevacizumab by using data from July 2009, and projected the likely impact of the recent listing of cetuximab. The utility of these data for estimating the cost-effectiveness of treatment was explored.

Results:

Cancer stage and age at diagnosis were major determinants of treatment received and the associated cost. The cost of early stage disease has not substantially changed whereas therapies such as oxaliplatin and irinotecan were significant contributors to substantial increases in stage IV disease, now $71 156 per patient. Bevacizumab has added at least $10 247 per patient and we estimate that cetuximab will add a further $12 022. An exploratory analysis of the cost-effectiveness of oxaliplatin for adjuvant therapy of stage III colon cancer suggests that this is well within the accepted range.

Conclusion:

These data suggest that recent progress in the treatment of later stages of colorectal cancer is being achieved at significant financial cost. The increased costs of managing later stages of disease make an investment in prevention and early detection ever more attractive.

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