Cancer treatment threatens to become unaffordable (update)

The cost of caring for cancer patients threatens to become unaffordable, leading doctors, economists and patient groups to call for a ceiling on medicine costs, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

The paper’s own research shows there are now 60 different cancer treatments which cost more than €10,000 per patient per year.

The money allocated to treatment is worked out between hospitals and health insurance companies and once it has been used up, patients will have to pick up the cost, the Volkskrant says.


Many cancer drugs do not cure the disease but prolong the life of the patient. In some cases, life can be extended for a few months at a cost of thousands of euros. At the same time, the number of cancer patients is expected to rise by 25% over the next seven years to 123,000.

The Dutch cancer specialists’ association is concerned. More new drugs are on their way and difficult choices will have to be made, the association’s chairman Hans Gelderblom said.

‘I do not want the patient to be the victim in this and I do not want to have this discussion in talks with patients,’ he said.


The Dutch cancer patients’ federation wants price discussions to take place at a European level in an effort to reign in costs.

On Thursday, the public health institute RIVM said cancer now accounts for 8.7% of healthcare spending, compared with 4.6% six years ago.

Health minister Edith Schippers said in a reaction that drugs are so expensive because they are made a for a small group of people. ‘At the same time, we are gaining better insight into who the drugs work for,’ she said.

The introduction of market forces into healthcare is beginning to pay off and drugs prices are relatively stable,’ the minister is quoted as saying by Nos television.

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