Comparison of Anticancer Drug Coverage Decisions in the United States and United Kingdom: Does the Evidence Support the Rhetoric?

Anne Mason, Michael Drummond, Scott Ramsey, Jonathan Campbell, Dennis Raisch

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Purpose In contrast to the United States, several European countries have health technology assessment programs for drugs, many of which assess cost effectiveness. Coverage decisions that consider cost effectiveness may lead to restrictions in access.

Methods For a purposive sample of five decision-making bodies, we analyzed US and United Kingdom coverage decisions on all anticancer drugs approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from 2004 to 2008. Data sources for the timing and outcome of licensing and coverage decisions included published and unpublished documentation, Web sites, and personal communication.

Results The FDA approved 59 anticancer drugs over the study period, of which 46 were also approved by the European Medicines Agency. In the United States, 100% of drugs were covered, mostly without restriction. However, the United Kingdom bodies made positive coverage decisions for less than half of licensed drugs (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence [NICE]: 39%; Scottish Medicines Consortium [SMC]: 43%). Whereas the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) covered all 59 drugs from the FDA license date, delays were evident for some Regence Group decisions that were informed by cost effectiveness (median, 0 days; semi-interquartile range [SIQR], 122 days; n = 22). Relative to the European Medicines Agency license date, median time to coverage was 783 days (SIQR, 170 days) for NICE and 231 days (SIQR, 129 days) for the SMC.

Conclusion Anticancer drug coverage decisions that consider cost effectiveness are associated with greater restrictions and slower time to coverage. However, this approach may represent an explicit alternative to rationing achieved through the use of patient copayments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3234-3238
Number of pages5
JournalJournal of Clinical Oncology
Issue number20
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2010


  • NICE

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