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The Indirect Cost Burden of Cancer Care in Canada: A Systematic Literature Review

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JournalApplied Health Economics and Health Policy
DateAccepted/In press - 21 Oct 2020
DateE-pub ahead of print (current) - 24 Dec 2020
Number of pages18
Early online date24/12/20
Original languageEnglish


BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES: Cancer poses a substantial health and economic burden on patients and caregivers in Canada. Previous reviews have estimated the indirect cost burden as work-related productivity losses associated with cancer. However, these estimates require updating and complementing with more comprehensive data that include relevant dimensions beyond labor market costs, such as patient time, lost leisure time and home productivity losses.

METHODS: A systematic review of the literature was conducted to identify studies published from 2006 to 2020 that measured and reported the indirect costs borne by cancer patients and their caregivers in Canada, from the patient, caregiver, employer, and societal perspectives. Study characteristics and cost estimation methods were extracted from relevant studies. Costs estimates were reported and converted to 2020 CAD for the following categories: lost earnings, caregiving time costs, home production losses, patient time (leisure), morbidity-, disability-, premature mortality-related costs, friction costs, and overall productivity losses. A quality assessment of individual studies was conducted for included studies using the Newcastle-Ottawa Assessment Tool.

RESULTS: In total, 3980 studies were identified, of which 18 Canadian studies met the inclusion criteria for review. One-third of the studies used or developed prediction models, 38% enrolled patient cohorts, and 27% used administrative databases. Over one-third of the studies were conducted at a national level (38%). All studies employed the human capital approach to estimate costs, and 16% also used the friction cost approach. Lost earnings were higher among self-employed patients (43% vs 24% among employees) and females ($8200 vs $3200 for males). Caregiver costs ranged from $15,786 to $20,414 per patient per year. Household productivity losses were estimated to be up to $238,904 per household per year. Patient time (leisure) costs were estimated to be between $13,000 and $18,704 per patient per year. Premature annual mortality costs were estimated to be $2.98 billion overall in Quebec. Friction costs incurred by employers were estimated between $6400 and $23,987 per patient per year. Societal productivity losses associated with cancer were estimated between $75 million to $317 million, annually.

CONCLUSIONS: This review suggests that the indirect cost burden of cancer is considerable from the patient, caregiver, employer, and societal perspectives. This up-to-date review of the literature provides a comprehensive understanding of the indirect cost burden by including non-labor market activity costs and by examining all relevant perspectives. These results provide a strong case for the government and employers to ensure there are supports in place to help patients and caregivers buffer the impact of cancer so they can continue to engage in productive activities and enjoy leisure time.

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© 2020, The Author(s).

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