How Healthcare Can Lower Cancer Deaths

September 26, 2019
MHE Staff
MHE Staff

Collaboration within the healthcare industry is needed to push the cancer death rate down.

Cancer has surpassed cardiovascular disease as the number one cause of death in middle-aged adults in several countries, according to a recent study involving more than 160,000 individuals from 21 countries. The research was published in early September in The Lancet. While the study did not include the U.S., cancer has surpassed cardiovascular disease in about half of the states in the nation as well.

To tackle cancer, a diversity of innovative drugs and diagnostics will be needed. Payers, drug manufacturers, and regulators will all have a role to play but will need to collaborate on a solution, according to a representative of Precision for Value, a marketing agency with a team made up of healthcare professionals who previously held decision-making roles at PBMs, health plans, IDNs, employer groups, and specialty pharmacies.

Payers, manufacturers, and regulators will need to collaborate on a solution or the result may go one of two ways: affordable medication with no innovation or plenty of innovation with a dwindling ability purchase it. 

Jeremy Schafer, a senior vice president at Precision for Value, shares his thoughts about how the healthcare industry can work toward lowering cancer deaths and how recent legislative moves could impact innovation but also how manufacturers need to show value to payers as well as patients. Schafer’s areas of expertise are in specialty medications and oncology, payer management of pharmaceuticals, and cost-effectiveness modeling.

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“To lower cancer deaths, multiple avenues should be pursued but most importantly a focus should be on prevention (reduced smoking, etc.), earlier diagnosis and treatment, and affordable access to emerging therapies with improved survival over existing regimens,” he says. “Each stakeholder in healthcare has a role to play by providing education and engagement with patients to impact modifiable risk factors, identify cancer earlier, and ensure appropriate therapies are chosen for the best possible outcome.”

An alignment of value is key.

“These parties can currently oppose each other when focused on individual goals. Manufacturers want to bring drugs to market quickly and have unrestricted pricing and access. Payers want to keep costs low and may do so by limiting access. For the FDA, ensuring that new therapies are safe and effective, with proper safeguards in place, is critical, and this can prolong the review period,” he says. “As the market gravitates to a value basis, parties will increasingly align around facilitating access to drugs that improve cancer therapy and survival. Shifting the market to value-based reimbursement and evaluation will be key to enriching collaboration.”

Pharmaceutical manufacturers are concerned that recent legislative proposals that would either limit pricing or impose government price controls on drugs could limit innovation, he adds. These moves have taken several forms including the international pricing index proposed by President Trump but also being considered in proposals from the House, drug price inflation limitations in the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act in the Senate, and government negotiation of drug prices in Medicare for All. 

“The overall impact on innovation with any of these proposals is difficult to determine although there are cases of innovative new drugs taking longer to become available in nations with these kinds of controls,” he says. “Better collaboration among parties could align with the advancing science and speed up positive outcomes. The healthcare community will need to continue to develop new tools including improved diagnostics, better drugs, and evolving care to continue pushing down cancer deaths until they hit zero.”