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Cancer care and access to cancer drugs in Asia-Pacific – Introduction

Hofmarcher T, Keel G, Lindgren P

In the coming weeks, IHE will publish a report series on cancer care and access to cancer drugs in Asia-Pacific. This week’s publication provides the introduction (IHE Report 2021:3a) and the executive summary, ending with a call-to-action (IHE Report 2021:3b).

This report explores the state of cancer care and access to cancer drugs in Asia-Pacific. 14 countries and locations, referred to as “markets” in the report, are included in the analysis. They are grouped into 7 high-income markets (Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan) and 7 middle-income markets (China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam).

The report provides a comparative analysis of the 14 markets. It is divided into five sub-reports focusing on:

1. The burden of cancer: It shows that cancer patient numbers have been growing steadily in recent years along with the incoming silver tsunami. While more and more patients survive cancer in high-income markets, patient outcomes in middle-income markets are at best stagnating.

2. Health spending on cancer care: It shows that most markets miss the informal WHO target of public health spending of 5% of GDP. Cancer accounts for 5-9% of total health spending in high-income markets and only 1-2% (excl. out-of-pocket payments) in some middle-income markets.

3. Patient access to innovative cancer drugs: It shows that there is a big gap between the number of innovative drugs with regulatory approval and those with reimbursement approval. Almost 1 million patient life years are lost for every year of delay in reimbursement of 10 innovative cancer drug-indications across the markets.

4. Health spending on cancer drugs and unmet patient needs: Total health spending on cancer drugs ranges from $30 to $90 per capita in high-income markets and from $0.2 to $6.6 in middle-income markets (based on list prices). Despite higher spending on innovative cancer drugs, even high-income markets may struggle to meet patient needs.

5. Pricing policies for off-patent cancer drugs: Pricing policies for off-patent cancer drugs are not fully effective in many markets. Effective pricing policies for off-patent cancer drugs could free up substantial resources for re-investment in new innovative cancer drugs.

The report was funded by Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD). Responsibility for the analysis, interpretations, and conclusions, as well as errors or omissions lies solely with the authors.

For more information, please contact Thomas Hofmarcher

IHE Report 2021:3a, IHE: Lund, Sweden