Mapping out the right cancer treatment


Advances in treatment and early detection mean that more people than ever before are surviving cancer. However, treatment is becoming more expensive and, according to a recent report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare informatics[i], total global spending on cancer drugs amounted to $100 billion[ii] in 2014, a 10.3% increase in just five years.

The huge growth has been attributed to a number of factors:

  • increase in the cost of treatment
  • increase in the length of time that patients receive therapy
  • increase in overall treatment response rates and survival rates
  • new products on the market, including biologics and targeted agents

Targeted cancer therapies (“smart” treatments that identify and attack only cancer cells, as opposed to standard treatments such as chemotherapy, which can also affect healthy cells) now account for almost 50% of total spending and have been growing at an average rate of 14.6% over the past five years. As we head into the future, the pace of this growth shows no signs of slowing down. Depending on a country’s particular healthcare system, there are significant long-term implications for the burden that patients, insurers and countries will have to bear.

Commenting on the report findings[iii], the IMS Institute’s Executive Director, Murray Aitken, underlined the continuing importance of the United States as an international reference in the fight against cancer, and the benefits of access to care: “Americans have access to more of the innovative drugs than any other country and they are seeing the benefits of those in terms of overall survival rates”. Although the United States leads the world in spending on cancer, with 42.2% of the total, other developed countries have increased spending as well, with the highest percentage increase seen in UK (67%). Spending in other countries, however, has declined, such as in Spain (-1%).

Despite spending increases, an importance issue facing cancer patients in all developing countries is access. While no single country offered all 37 of the cancer drugs launched between 2009 and 2013, the differences from country to country were significant, with the U.S. at the top of the spectrum offering access to 86% of the available drugs, and Spain, Japan and South Korea offering fewer than half.


[i] IMS institute for Healthcare Informatics (May 2015) Developments in Cancer Treatments, Market Dynamics, Patient Access and Value. Global Oncology Trend Report 2015. Available at:

[ii] All dollar amounts in this post are in American Dollars (USD).

[iii] Leonard, Kimberly (May 5th 2015) Global Cancer Spending Reaches $100B. US News & World Report. Retrieved from:

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