24th Mar 2018

Europeans receive unequal access to cancer treatment, report says

Europeans do not benefit from an equal access to cancer treatment, according to a report published on Friday (16 January) by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA).

The research by Nils Wilking, clinical oncologist at the Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and Bengt Jonsson, professor of health economics at the Stockholm School of Economics, covers all EU states but Cyprus and Malta, as well as Iceland, Norway and Switzerland.

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  • Inequalities in access to cancer care remain within the EU (Photo: European Community, 2005)

It also shows disparities in the rates of survival from cancer, notably when comparing eastern Europe with northern and western Europe.

Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Austria and Belgium have the highest cancer survival rate, whereas the Czech Republic and Poland have the lowest.

In Sweden, 60.3 percent of men and 61.7 percent of women diagnosed with cancer survive compared to only 37.7 percent of men and 49.3 percent of women in the Czech Republic.

People in the Czech Republic and Poland also lag behind on access to new cancer treatment, compared to Austria, France and Switzerland, which lead the ranking, according to the report.

This is partly explained by the fact that in countries where the income per capita is lower, the access to new cancer drugs is lower too, even if drugs account for a large percentage of the total health care spending.

"The inequalities –highlighted in our original report in 2005 – still remain," Professor Jonsson stated.

"For patients and society this is a real concern, as expectations are that all patients in Europe should have equal opportunity to access these treatments, particularly when evidence shows that access to cancer treatment is linked to an improvement in outcome," he added.

To reach that goal, the report's authors suggest policy-makers should improve access to cancer treatment by "adapting healthcare budgets generally and hospital budgets specifically to incorporate the introduction of new cancer drugs."

Other means would include introducing separate funding for cancer drugs, and promoting a more collaborative European approach in order to collect as much available scientific information as possible.

In 2006, over 2.3 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in Europe – a 10 percent increase compared to 2002 – while 1.2 million people died of the disease.


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