This is demonstrated by a recent study by Professor Frank R. Lichtenberg of Columbia University, which has just been published in the journal Value in Health.
Lichtenberg analysed the relationship between pharmaceutical innovation and cancer mortality in Spain between 1999 and 2016.
The use of new cancer drugs in this period increased patients’ life expectancy by 2.77 years and prevented the deaths of more than 42,000 people, according to the study.
New cancer treatments have reduced cancer deaths in Spain by almost 30% in the last decade. This is demonstrated by a recent study conducted by Professor Frank R. Lichtenberg of Columbia University (USA), which has just been published in the journal Value in Health. The study, The Relationship Between Pharmaceutical Innovation and Cancer Mortality in Spain, From 1999 to 2016, analysed the impact of the use of cancer treatments for a total of 56 different types of cancer during this period. Lichtenberg’s research showed that those cancers that had seen the most pharmaceutical innovation in that period had the greatest reductions in mortality.
Specifically, the study showed that the emergence between 1998 and 2015 of new cancer drugs caused the average age of death of cancer patients in Spain to increase by almost three years (2.77). Furthermore, according to Professor Lichtenberg’s conclusions, our country recorded 42,132 fewer cancer deaths than expected in 2016, the last year of the study, i.e. a reduction of 29.2% in the number of deaths.
The US expert, an international reference in the study of the added value of medicines, already anticipated the results of this analysis at the 1st High Level Forum on Medicines and the Social Value of Investing in Health, held last year in Madrid, and now the study has been published in this scientific journal, where it can be consulted in open access.
The study’s conclusions also show that the more modern the therapeutic arsenal against a type of cancer, the fewer premature deaths occur and, therefore, the fewer years of potential life lost (YPLL), the study points out. Lichtenberg calculated that, in 2016 in Spain, the new drugs authorised against cancer in the period 1999-2016 managed to reduce up to 333,000 DALYs before the age of 75, a concept commonly used in health research.
Social returns from investing in medicines
In addition, Lichtenberg also studied the social return on investment in innovation in cancer drugs in Spain. He estimated that in 2016 Spain had spent a total of 1.09 billion euros on authorised cancer drugs between 2000 and 2016 (based on data from the consultancy firm Iqvia). Taking into account this figure and the increase in the years of life gained by these patients (2.77 years on average), Lichtenberg estimated that each year of life gained had cost the healthcare system 3,269 euros, which means a high level of efficiency in this investment.
Therefore, Lichtenberg concludes that investment in research and development of new drugs is linked to a direct benefit in the health of patients, but also to a reduction in costs that benefits the system and society in general.