Cancer treatment costs to rise by more than 27 percent; biologic drugs represent one-fifth of the growth

A new study of claims data estimates that cancer care costs in the U.S. will grow from $124.6 billion in 2010 to reach annual spending between $158 billion and $173 billion by 2020, an increase of 27% to 39%.

The Community Oncology Alliance (COA) commissioned the report from actuarial firm Milliman.

Fueled by new biologic cancer drugs, drug spending – which comprised up to one-fifth of the total costs in actively treated cancer patients in 2014 – has increased at the highest rate of all component costs. The study also noted that cancer care has moved from the doctor’s office into the more expensive hospital setting and that is a key factor driving the increase in cost of care.

The number of Americans with cancer is expected to rise to 18.1 million in 2020 from 14.5 million in 2014 due to several factors, the study says, including the growth and aging of the U.S. population, overall mortality reduction, earlier detection of cancer, and the increase in cancer survival.

The study found that when chemotherapy is delivered in a hospital outpatient setting, costs are higher cost than when patients are treated in a physician’s office. For Medicare patients, the difference was $16,208 in 2014; for commercially insured patients, the cost was $46,272 higher in 2014.

While the cost of treating cancer is rising, the study’s authors say that the rate of growth was consistent with overall growth rates in medical treatment.

“Per patient costs for the total population, actively treated cancer population, and non-cancer population increased at very similar rates over the 11-year study period,” the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) said in a statement. “Contrary to a commonly held misbelief that cancer care costs have rapidly outpaced other health care spending trends, the study actually found that total costs of treating patients with cancer have increased at essentially the same rate as all health care spending since 2004.”

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