Cancer care may cost the U.S. two-thirds more in the next decade, with annual bills potentially topping $200 billion as the population ages and drug prices rise.
The tab last year was $125 billion, according to National Cancer Institute researchers who analyzed scenarios to determine future costs. By itself, the increasing number of elderly Americans most vulnerable to cancer will push up the price to $158 billion by 2020, said Angela Mariotto, chief of data modeling at the NCI’s Surveillance Research Program in Bethesda, Maryland.
If advances in technology and treatment push up the cost of care 5 percent for the first year after diagnosis and during the last year of life, as in recent years, the bill will reach $207 billion in 2020, according to today’s report in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. The largest increase will stem from longer care needed for breast and prostate cancer patients as survival rates rise, the researchers said.
“The rising of health costs represents a challenge for the federal government, but also for the private sector,” Mariotto said in a telephone interview. “It’s going to be important in the future to manage the costs of treatments and diagnostic technologies, but it will also be important to further advance the science of cancer prevention and treatment.”
Cancer is the second-leading cause of death in the U.S., after heart disease, killing almost 570,000 Americans last year, according to the American Cancer Society, based in Atlanta.
The researchers based their analysis on a review of the rates and costs of treatment for 13 cancers in men and 16 in women. While survival has increased in recent years, incidence rates have declined, the researchers said. The biggest change will stem from the aging population, with 55 million Americans, or 16 percent, ages 65 or older by 2020, up from 40 million this year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
The cost of individual care also is likely to increase, as medical advances to diagnose, treat and monitor cancer patients raise prices, the researchers said.
The widespread use of newer, costly cancer medications, such as Avastin from Basel, Switzerland-based Roche Holding AG and Sutent from New York-based Pfizer Inc., will probably drive up costs more rapidly, while the effect may be reduced by genetic tests and other means to identify patients most likely to benefit, the researchers said.
Avastin, approved for brain, lung, breast and colon tumors, costs about $50,000 a year. Sutent, which is sold for kidney and digestive tract tumors, has a similar price tag.
“We need more research and management on the costs of these new treatments and diagnostic technology to ensure more effective approaches are delivered,” Mariotto said.
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