New report on cancer care across Europe reveals UK to be below average on cancer spend, survival rates and patient access to new medicines


The report highlights a pattern of wealthier European countries delivering higher survival rates

A new report by the Swedish Institute for Health Economics (IHE) has found that more people than ever across Europe are now surviving cancer.

Despite this, the report reveals the UK is spending less money on cancer care, has below average 5 year-survival rates and is generally found to still have some of the lowest uptake of new cancer medicines when compared with the five largest European economies.

IHE’s ‘Comparator Report on Patient Access to Cancer Medicines in Europe Revisited’ draws on a selection of data sources and updates a previous evidence base first published in 2005 on differences between European countries experiences in patient access to new cancer drugs.

Survival rates: The report highlights a pattern of wealthier European countries delivering higher survival rates, with the UK being a significant exception to this, where survival rates at just under 50% remain stubbornly below the European 5 year relative survival rate average of 54% (range 40% to 64%) (2000-2007), up from 47% (1990-1994).

Cancer care expenditure and healthcare budgets: In 2014 the average EU proportion of GDP spent on overall healthcare expenditure was 10.1%, and in the UK is 9.1%. Despite the increasing number of people being diagnosed, cancer expenditure as a proportion of overall healthcare expenditure across Europe has remained broadly stable at around 6% between 2002 and 2012. In the UK, this level of investment is below average, remaining unchanged at around 5%.

Whilst spending on cancer medicines has more than doubled during the last ten years, this has largely been offset by savings in moving care provision from hospital to outpatient and community based settings. This trend is supported by the ongoing development of more targeted and less toxic cancer medicines, oral treatments and supportive care medicines.

The impact of innovation on mortality rates: Whilst cancer incidence has continued to broadly rise across Europe, totalling 2.7 million cases in 2012, up by about 30% compared to 1995, during the same period mortality rates have increased by only around 11%. The latter being a significant achievement brought about by the advances in screening, diagnostics, treatments and medicines.

Access to innovative cancer medicines: The report reveals the impact of variable access to medicines for patients across different European countries with patients in some countries facing long delays to access treatments. The newest drugs (launched within the last 3 years) make up only 8% of total average cancer medicine sales across Europe, which varies between 4% and 11% per year in different countries. The UK is generally revealed to still have some of the lowest uptake of new cancer medicines compared with the five largest European economies, although there are exceptions where better progress has been made.

Commenting on the launch of the report, Dr Paul Catchpole, ABPI’s Value and Access Director said: 'Today’s report shows how innovations and developments in cancer medicines and therapies are starting to gradually transform some cancers from an acute to a chronic disease across Europe. The impact of these improvements is clear, both in terms of improving survival rates and the corresponding benefit that this delivers to society.'

The report highlights that the UK spends less on healthcare overall, less on cancer care and generally has lower access to new cancer medicines. We need to reflect on this given the stated ambition of government and the NHS to further improve UK cancer outcomes. It seems clear that healthcare professionals need access to as many treatment options as possible to best support UK patients on their cancer journeys. All partners in the cancer community need to work together to achieve this in a way that is sustainable, manageable and delivers the best possible patient outcomes. This is a challenge that will require flexible and responsive solutions,' he added.

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'UK-specific data sets from this work will be analysed in detail during the coming months and shared so that we can identify any necessary learnings and discuss these with the cancer community, and more broadly,' Paul concluded. The ABPI will produce a detailed UK analysis of the new data during the coming months and will be hosting a roundtable event with Cancer Research UK to identify learnings in September 2016.