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Value assessment on anticancer drugs hotly discussed
  • By Jeong Sae-im
  • Published 2019.10.24 13:46
  • Updated 2019.10.24 13:46
  • comments 0

Experts are raising the need to establish tools to calculate the value of new anticancer medicines due to the rising costs of national health insurance. However, industry officials express concerns that such devices could be used for “post-assessment,” which could remove existing drugs.

Korean Cancer Study Group held a public hearing titled “Analysis on Value Assessment Tools for Anticancer Drugs Overseas and Application in Korea,” at the Catholic University of Korea on Tuesday. Participants raised the necessity of developing anticancer drug evaluation tools, reviewed the progress of the discussion, and debated in which direction the next move should be.

Government officials and private experts discuss developing tools to assess the value of new anticancer drugs at the Catholic University of Korea on Tuesday.

With voices growing for an efficient assessment of anticancer drugs, experts are actively discussing how to develop tools worldwide. Critics have repeatedly raised the issue of expensive cancer drugs’ uncertain cost-effectiveness.

Recently, the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) and the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) have developed tools for determining cancer drugs’ values. Three other organizations -- the U.S. National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSKCC), and the Institute for Clinical and Economic Review (ICER) -- have also done so.

The Korean government is also taking the initiative to develop value assessment tools because the state spending for national health insurance is going up. Health Insurance Review and Assessment Service (HIRA) gave public notice of a bid in April, conducted a first-phase pilot study on experts’ awareness on July 6, and a first-phase focused group interview on Aug. 23, and a second focused group interview on Oct. 1.

A majority of the pharmaceutical industry agreed that developing tools to evaluate the value of anticancer treatments were necessary. Many preferred benchmarking tools for ASCO and ESMO. They expressed a positive opinion that the tools could be utilized as the criteria for granting insurance benefits or the criteria for after assessment.

However, businesses opposed to using the evaluation tools as evidence to kick out existing drugs.

Panelist Kim Jun-su, head of Market Access at AbbVie Korea, said using evaluation tools for after assessment of anticancer drugs would bring about a significant price readjustment.

“This would end up re-evaluating reimbursable cancer drugs, which may lower drug prices or remove the drug from the market,” he said. “I’m concerned about a radical introduction of such an imperfect tool.”

Other panelists shared his view but expressed different thoughts on when to introduce the tools.

Park Young-mi, general director of Pharmaceutical Product Management at HIRA, said the government would not decide on reimbursement approval only based on the value assessment tools. “It will be impossible to develop a perfect tool that reflects all aspects of diseases and drugs,” she said.

Kim Yeul-hong, a professor of Oncology and Hematology at Korea University College of Medicine, said the problem lay in the existing system where changes in the priority of drugs, following the arrival of new drugs, do not get reflected in existing reimbursable medicines.

KCSG President Kang Jin-hyoung, also a professor at Oncology Department at Seoul St. Mary’s Hospital, said he could understand the concerns from pharmaceutical companies. “If the government re-evaluates existing anticancer drugs based on evidence and show flexibility to help new cancer medicines quickly reach the market, the pharmaceutical industry will be relieved,” he said.

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