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Americans Spend $12,000 For Colorectal Cancer Chemotherapy While Canadians Spend $6,000

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Canada has a single-payer health care system and the United States does not, which explains why Canadians spend less money on medical treatments.

How Does The Cost Compare For Cancer Treatment Between Both Countries?

A new study revealed that Americans spend twice as much money on chemotherapy treatment for colorectal cancer than their Canadian counterparts. The findings will be presented in June 2018 at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) in Chicago.

According to the findings, patients with metastatic colorectal cancer in Western Washington state spent $12,345 per month for treatment. Patients with same cancer in neighboring British Columbia spent only $6,195 per month for the same medical care.

The study found almost no difference when it came to survival time. The patients in Washington survived an average of 21.4 months and those patients in British Columbia survived 22.1 months.

"Beyond the chemotherapy costs, which you could imagine are going to be higher here, the novel piece is around treatments and survival," said Fred Hutch's Dr. Veena Shankaran, a senior author of the study.

With the exceptions of age and geography, the patients in the study had similar levels of education, identical diagnoses, comparable financial situations, and other demographics. About 79 percent of the patients in the United States received chemotherapy, compared to 68 percent in Canada. On average, the United States patients were younger. There may have also been some different types of chemotherapy used.

"Clinical trials have really shown these regimens are comparable in terms of efficacy," said Shankaran.

How Did Researchers Find This Cost Difference?

The researchers studied 1,622 patients in Canada and 575 in the United States. Investigators worked separately on each side of the border to examine the data.

In the United States, researchers looked at the private insurance data in Western Washington. In Canada, researchers analyzed data from British Columbia's single-payer system.

Future Implications For United States' Health Care

Although it was well-documented that Americans spend more on the same health care treatment than Canadians, this is the first study to spotlight a specific treatment and how spending is not directly tied to medical outcomes.

"In the U.S., the price is really set by the market and what pharmaceutical companies are charging," said Dr. Todd Yezefski of Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Washington. "We think if Medicare, being the largest payer for medication, could negotiate drugs prices, the cost could go down overall, even for what private insurance pays."

The researchers also noted that the systems work for each nation. Although the United States' treatment is more expensive, it also treats more patients.

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