The cost of the global oncology market reached $100 billion in 2014 - an increase of $75 billion from 2009.
"The increased prevalence of most cancers, earlier treatment initiation, new medicines and improved outcomes are all contributing to the greater demand for oncology therapeutics around the world," says Murray Aitken, IMS Health senior vice president and executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, who produced the new report.
One of the report's key findings is that the cost of the global oncology market reached $100 billion in 2014 - an increase of $75 billion from 2009.
However, within the US, there has only been a modest increase of spending compared with the five largest European countries. Between 2010 and 2014, oncology grew from 13.3% of total drug spending to 14.7% in these European countries, compared with a rise from 10.7% of total drug spending to 11.3% in the US during the same period.
Another main finding is that clinical outcomes are improving for all major cancers. According to the report, 5-year survival rates have risen thanks to continuous improvements in detection and treatment. Two thirds of Americans diagnosed with cancer live for at least 5 years nowadays, compared with just over half in 1990.
The report predicts that these increases in survival will increase substantially thanks to new developments in "immuno-oncologic" and combination treatments, and suggests that biomarker-driven drugs and diagnostics will have a transformative effect on oncology.
"Innovative therapeutic classes, combination therapies and the use of biomarkers will change the landscape over the next several years," Aitken says, "holding out the promise of substantial improvements in survival with lower toxicity for cancer patients."
Access to new cancer drugs varies between nations
The report found that patient access to cancer drugs varies wildly across all markets, however. In 2014, patients in Japan, Spain and South Korea had access to fewer than half of the new cancer drugs launched globally in the past 5 years. Even in the wealthiest countries, drugs that are not reimbursed will only reach a tiny proportion of patients.
In the US, average treatment costs per month have increased 39% over the past 10 years. In the same period there has also been improvements in patient response (up 42%) and treatment duration (increase of 45%), which the report states reflect improved survival rates.
The report also observes that the costs of intravenous cancer drugs in the US rocketed up by 71% during 2012-13 as a result of increased outpatient facility costs.
Finally, the IMS reveal that discussion boards, followed by Twitter, have become the most dominant channels that patients use to engage with a variety of topics - from treatment options to financial concerns - during their cancer journey. The researchers assessed 6 months of social media discussions related to prostate cancer and found that the most frequently discussed topic was treatment options, followed by financial concerns.
A recent analysis published in Blood, the Journal of the American Society of Hematology, found that new, expensive blood cancer drugs - which can cost up to $100,000 per year - deliver high-value treatment.
"Given the increased discussion about the high cost of these treatments, we were somewhat surprised to discover that their cost-effectiveness ratios were lower than expected," admitted senior author of that study, Peter S. Neumann, director of the Center for Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, MA.
"Our analysis had a small sample size and included both industry- and non-industry-funded studies. In addition, cost-effectiveness ratios may have changed over time as associated costs or benefits have changed. However," Neumann concluded, "the study underscores that debates in health care should consider the value of breakthrough drugs and not just costs."