Price of cancer treatment assessed for the first time

  • Tony Ryall

More than half a billion dollars a year is spent by the public health service on diagnosing and treating cancer and this is set to increase more than 20 per cent by 2021.

Health Minister Tony Ryall says, "The Ministry of Health report, Price of Cancer, tells New Zealand for the first time how much taxpayers are paying for the care of people with cancers.

"Identifying each cancer when it is diagnosed and how much it costs to treat, makes it easier to see where future cost pressures are likely and how best to manage them.

The report reveals that breast cancer, which accounts for more than 10 percent of all cancer registrations, is the most expensive cancer to treat at more than $80 million a year. This is followed by colorectal cancer and cancers of the lymph and blood, including leukaemia.

"The conclusion is that population growth and aging are the main reasons that the cost of cancer treatment is increasing, and improved productivity is the most effective way to contain costs."

The report however does not include future cost pressures from new drugs and technologies. Neither does it take into account the costs associated with cancer prevention such as tobacco control, screening programmes, the HPV immunisation programme, and services like disability support.

In our first term, this Government has:
• introduced funding for a 12 month course of the breast cancer drug herceptin
• introduced a bowel cancer screening programme
• provided $4 million to help regional cancer centres provide faster treatment for patients
• approved ten new linear accelerators (cancer radiation treatment machines)
• reduced maximum waiting times for radiation cancer treatment to the world gold standard of four weeks
• increased publicly funded chemotherapy clinics 25%
• funded new medicines for advanced lung and kidney cancers, and
• introduced new lung cancer treatment standards including a maximum waiting time from GP referral to first treatment.

The report is at