New studies reveal for the first time the true economic and human costs of caring for cancer patients in Europe. Cancers cost the EU €124 billion each year with lung cancer responsible for the highest overall burden.
Dr Ramon Luengo-Fernandez from the University of Oxford, UK, and colleagues included direct health costs such as primary care, hospital care and medications, as well as the cost of informal care and losses in productivity in their calculations. Their data came from a variety of sources including the WHO, the OECD and national ministries of health.
“Cancer poses a considerable economic burden not only to healthcare systems but to other areas of the economy, including productivity losses through early mortality and time-off-work, and relatives who have to forego work/leisure to care for cancer patients,” Dr Luengo-Fernandes said.
The researchers broke down the costs by country and by cancer. The research suggests that Lithuania spent the least on cancer health care, around £6,026 per patient, while Germany had the highest healthcare cost, spending an average of £22,563 on every cancer case.
Breast cancer had the highest healthcare costs, at €6 billion each year, accounting for 13 percent of the total cancer health care costs in the EU. However, the highest total economic burden was attributable to lung cancer, a total of €19 billion, of which €10 billion was due to premature mortality.
“One of the purposes of studies such as this one is to enable comparisons to be made between the burden of different diseases, aiding decision makers to prioritize scarce research funds,” Dr Luengo-Fernandez said.
“In order to be in a better position to inform policy decisions there is a great need for improved information on epidemiology, healthcare resource use and unit costs across the EU.”