The cost of medicine for cancer treatment continues to rise, with global spending reaching as much as $100 billion in 2014 compared to the $75 billion cost from five years ago, according to a report by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics released on Tuesday.

As part of its Global Oncology Trend Report, the company revealed that the figure amounts to a 10.3 percent increase from 2013. It also represents 10.8 percent of the total medicine cost in the world, including supportive care drugs to treat anemia and nausea.

The IMS said that the drastic increase was driven by newer and more expensive treatments typically found in developed markets. It also predicts that spending will continue at a 6 to 8 percent growth rate, amounting to $117 billion to $147 billion by 2018.

Executive Director Murray Aitken of the IMS Institute explained that there has been significant progress in understanding cancer. He said that it is not a single disease but rather a multitude of sub-diseases. Aitken added that experts are now about to make a significant breakthrough with regard to treating cancer.

The IMS said that between 2010 and 2014, there have been 45 new cancer medicines introduced in the market, including 10 drugs from the previous year alone.

Two of these new drugs, called immunotherapies, utilize the patient's immune system in order to cure the disease. These are Bristol-Myers Squibb's Opdivo and Merck's Keytruda. Treatments using these medicines cost $12,500 each month.

Express Scripts, the largest pharmacy benefit management group in the United States, said that it will pit available cancer medicines against each other in order to produce discounts for patients. The company succeeded in generating similar results for hepatitis C medicines last year.

Despite the high costs for cancer treatment, the IMS has noted major improvements in the survival rate of patients.

"Although the changes are incremental year to year, cumulatively, more patients are gaining years of life," the IMS reported.

Patients with prostate cancer, for instance, experienced an 18 percent improvement in their five-year survival rate between the years 1990 and 2010. Survival rates for liver cancer patients increased by 12 percent, and those for breast cancer patients improved by 8 percent.

"While we've made progress, we still have a long way to go to win the war on cancer," Aitken said.

"It takes time for new cancer treatments that may be initially adopted in a small number of academic medical centers to make their ways to community oncologists throughout the country. We should look into how we can accelerate that."

Photo: Steven Depolo | Flickr 

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