Oncologists in the Netherlands have agreed to tighten the criteria for cancer medicines amid concern about the rising cost of treatment.
Members of the Dutch Association of Medical Oncologists (NVMO) voted at a meeting last month to lower the ‘cut-off limit’ for treatments, according to documents seen by the Financieele Dagblad.
It means cancer medicines will only be prescribed if they reduce the chance of the disease recurring by 40%, rather than the current threshold of 30%.
Oncologists are concerned about the total cost of cancer treatment, which rose to €1.5 bn in 2021, and the effect of the current standards on the quality of medicine.
Hans Westgeest, of the Amphia hospital in Breda, argued on LinkedIn that raising the threshold would act as an incentive for pharmacists to develop better medicines.
“If we pay a Ferrari for a new cancer medicine that scores six out of 10, why should we expect them to work harder to get nine or 10?” Westgeest, one of the 130 delegates at the meeting in Utrecht, wrote.
But cancer patients’ association NFK said that the stricter standards would be ‘hard to accept’ for people receiving a diagnosis.
“Tightening the rules will mean treatment is no longer accessible for patients who have a very good chance of a good response,” the NFK said.
The melanoma patients’ organisation Stichting Melanoma was also critical of the decision and the fact that the vote was taken in private. The NVWO declined to comment when approached by the FD.
“We expect doctors to be there for patients first and foremost,” said Koen van Elst, chair of Stichting Melanoma. “It is regrettable that oncologists have taken this decision behind closed doors.”
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