Study on cancer care offers model for possible lower spending on treatment

The study, however, raised some questions because while it cut costs by a third and showed no decline in patient health, the spending on chemotherapy medications rose.

The Wall Street Journal: Study On Cancer Care Yields Mixed Results
A closely watched study that aimed to remove the financial incentive for doctors to prescribe expensive cancer drugs delivered a contradictory result, with lower overall treatment spending but higher chemotherapy medication costs. The results of the study, which involved UnitedHealth Group Inc.'s insurance arm and five oncology practices, raise questions about the most effective way to trim the rapidly growing tab for cancer care. The U.S. spent more on cancer drugs last year -;$37 billion, up 19% in five years-;than any other category, according to the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, a unit of IMS Health. Overall costs for treating cancer are well over $100 billion annually and mounting, according to researchers at the National Cancer Institute (Wilde Mathews, 7/8).

Reuters: New Doctor Payment Plan Cut Cancer Care Costs, UnitedHealth Says
An experiment changing how U.S. cancer doctors are compensated cut healthcare costs by a third, with no discernible decline in patient health, according to a three-year study by insurer UnitedHealth Group Inc and five medical oncology groups. Cancer treatment is one of the most expensive and fastest growing categories of care in the United States. Oncologists and insurers have been devising new incentives for doctors to improve patient care while lowering costs. In the latest experiment, UnitedHealth, the largest U.S. health insurer, gave participating doctors an upfront payment to cover a patient's full course of treatment, rather than reimburse them for each individual medical service such as chemotherapy. Findings from the study, which ran from 2009 to 2012, were published online on Tuesday in the Journal of Oncology Practice (Humer, 7/8).

Also, the New York Times looks at an increase in generic drug costs.

The New York Times: Rapid Price Increases For Some Generic Drugs Catch Users By Surprise
In recent years, generics have curbed the rise of drug prices, saving the American health care system billions of dollars. After the patents for Lipitor, the cholesterol drug, and Ambien, the sleeping pill, expired in the last few years, for example, generics entered the market and prices plummeted. But increasingly, experts say, the costs of some generic drugs are going the other way. The prices paid by pharmacies for some generic versions of Fiorinal with codeine (for migraines) and Synthroid (a thyroid medicine) as well as the generic steroid prednisolone have all more than doubled since last year, EvaluatePharma found. In January, the National Community Pharmacists Association called for a congressional hearing on generic drug prices, complaining that those for many essential medicines grew as much as "600, 1,000 percent or more" in recent years. The price jumps especially affected smaller pharmacies, which do not have the clout of big chains to bargain for discounts (Rosenthal, 7/8).

http://www.kaiserhealthnews.orgThis article was reprinted from kaiserhealthnews.org with permission from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. Kaiser Health News, an editorially independent news service, is a program of the Kaiser Family Foundation, a nonpartisan health care policy research organization unaffiliated with Kaiser Permanente.

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