Cancer charity calls for ceiling on expensive new drugs

Cancer specialists from Dutch cancer charity KWF Kankerbestrijding have written to the health minister urging her to come up with a maximum price for cancer treatment, the Volkskrant reports on Friday.

Until now, a price limit on treatment has been unacceptable to doctors, the paper says, referring to the way plans to stop funding special treatment for two muscle diseases was dropped after protests.

‘If we do not sound the alarm now, in two years’ time we will have a huge problem,’ Leiden professor and chairman of the working party Koos van der Hoeven told the paper.

Soaring costs

The cost of cancer drugs has tripled to €733m a year over the past 10 years and this upward trend is set to continue. More promising but expensive cancer drugs are coming on the market but can cost upwards of €100,000 per patient, the experts say.

At the same time, the population is getting older and cancer is becoming more prevalent. By 2020, there will some 120,000 cancer patients a year, a rise of 25%.

Six months ago, doctors and patients’ organisations also warned about the soaring cost of treating cancer. The KWF is now proposing an annual ceiling on spending on treatment. The aim is to ensure a level playing field across the country, rather than leave it up to individual hospitals to decide.


In Britain, there is a ceiling of 36,000 pounds sterling per extra healthy year, the Volkskrant says, adding that Norway and Germany also reject medicine considered to be too expensive.

A spokesman for the Dutch pharmaceutical company association Nefarma told the Volkskrant: ‘The discussion is about what is the value of an extra couple of months. But we do not think patients should end up the victims.’

The Dutch health ministry has set up a special agency to negotiate with drugs firms on price but is not revealing any financial details.

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