Researchers probe how cancer affects cost and caregivers
Cancer knows no bounds. In addition to the physical and emotional suffering it causes patients, cancer also burns immense holes in Europeans' pockets. New research shows that the EU forks out over EUR 124 billion each year to cover cancer costs.
The biggest costs are in Germany, and lung cancer accounts for the highest overall burden. The results, based on the first-ever estimate of the economic burden of malignancies in the region, were presented at the 2012 European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) Congress in Vienna, Austria on 1 October. Another study found that cancer caregivers reported more work absences and were more impaired in their activities, as compared to non-caregivers.
The figures for the cost-assessment study were based on direct and indirect costs, obtained from the World Health Organization (WHO), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and national ministries of health. Included in the former are primary and hospital care, and medications. Informal care and losses in productivity are indirect costs.
'Cancer poses a considerable economic burden not only to healthcare systems but to other areas of the economy, including productivity losses through early mortality and time-off work, and relatives who have to forego work/leisure to care for cancer patients,' said Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez of the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
'Healthcare systems will have a good idea, I expect, of the healthcare costs of providing cancer care to their patients,' he added. 'However, the productivity losses and informal care costs associated with cancer will be less well understood and their magnitude less appreciated.'
A breakdown of countries showed that Germany has the highest per capita healthcare cost, at around EUR 165, while Lithuania has the lowest, at EUR 32 per year.
Dr Luengo-Fernandez pointed out that northern and central European countries report the highest per capita costs with respect to healthcare for this disease. EU Member States that joined the EU in 2004 have the lowest per capita costs and also lower national income levels.
Breast cancer has the highest healthcare cost: it represents 13 % of the overall cancer health costs in the EU, i.e. EUR 6 billion each year. However, lung cancer ranks first in terms of highest total economic burden, with a whopping EUR 19 billon, of which EUR 10 billion is due to premature mortality.
Led by Dr Isabelle Gilloteau from Bristol-Myers Squibb in the United States, the researchers in the second study found that caregivers were 50 % more likely to be diagnosed with depression and had twice the chance of suffering from anxiety and insomnia. Migraines, headaches and gastrointestinal problems were also reported in caregivers.
'The levels of burden seen in the current study for mental quality of life and absenteeism impairments are similar to those observed elsewhere among adults with hepatitis C virus in the EU, or adults with osteoarthritis pain in the United States,' said Dr Gilloteau. 'The vital role played by unpaid caregivers in supporting cancer patients is well recognised, but the health burden and economic impact on these caregivers is poorly understood.'
One of the studies' objectives is to allow decision-makers to make comparisons between the burden of different diseases, and also to help them determine which areas should get priority research funds. 'In order to be in a better position to inform policy decisions, there is a great need for improved information on epidemiology, healthcare resource use and unit costs across the EU,' explained the Oxford researcher.
Commenting on the studies, Professor Peter Boyle, head of the International Prevention Research Institute in France, and member of the ESMO faculty group on cancer prevention, said: 'Here we have two studies of enormous importance. It is essential to have knowledge of the total costs of cancer, and Dr Luengo-Fernandez and colleagues have performed a great service in preparing such a detailed report. The remarkable study of Dr Gilloteau and colleagues provides unique information on the impact of cancer on caregivers. This again is key information and is almost unique. These studies provide a background on which logical funding decisions can be made.'
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Data Source Provider: Annals of Oncology; European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO)
Document Reference: Gilloteau, I. et al., 'Quantifying the burden of caregiving for patients with cancer in Europe' and Luengo-Fernandez, R. et al. 'Economic burden of malignant neoplasms in the European Union'. Annals of Oncology, 23(Suppl. 9), 2012.
Subject Index: Coordination, Cooperation; Life Sciences; Medicine, Health; Policies; Scientific Research