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Variation in Prices of Cancer Drugs in High-Income Countries

Difference in drug price between highest-, lowest-priced countries varies between 28 and 388 percent

drug blister pack

MONDAY, Dec. 7, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- The prices of cancer drugs vary greatly across high-income countries, according to a study published online Dec. 3 in The Lancet Oncology.

Sabine Vogler, Ph.D., from the Austrian Public Health Institute in Vienna, and colleagues surveyed the official list prices per unit at ex-factory price level of 31 originator cancer drugs in 16 European countries, Australia, and New Zealand.

The researchers found that price information was available for all or all but one drug surveyed in Austria, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, while price data availability was restricted for some drugs in other countries, particularly New Zealand and Portugal. Between the highest- and lowest-priced countries, the difference of a drug price varied between 28 and 388 percent. A few drugs had lower and upper outliers, especially Greek and U.K. prices and Swiss, German, and Swedish prices, respectively. Greek prices ranked at a low level overall, while Sweden, Switzerland, and Germany had similarly high ranges of prices.

"The surveyed prices do not include discounts negotiated by funding organizations because these discounts are confidential," the authors write. "Because pricing authorities can also only use these official undiscounted prices when they set prices through the common policy of external price referencing, they risk overpaying. Our findings provide an evidence base for policy makers to decide whether further policy measures related to drug prices are needed."

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