Another Cancer Drug Pricing Tool, This Time From NCCN

August 24, 2015

The National Comprehensive Cancer Network has announced the development of another "price" calculator that will help stakeholders assess the relative "value" of available options.

The past few months have seen reports of new tools being offered—and resistance being voiced—for cancer drug costs. The participants are physicians who treat cancer patients and are increasingly seeing their and their patients’ hands being tied by the expense associated with these drug costs. Now, to complement the DrugAbacus tool developed at the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and the value framework by a working committee of The American Society for Clinical Oncology, the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has announced the development of another “price” calculator that will help stakeholders assess the relative “value” of available options.

The NCCN tool includes 5 measures to be scored: price, drug efficacy, drug safety, quality of clinical data, and consistency of clinical data. The score will guide prescribing physicians to make more informed decisions and can help avoid bias. To be launched in mid-October this year, the tool, which currently includes data for 2 cancer types (multiple myeloma and chronic myeloid leukemia), will eventually be a part of electronic healthcare technology systems used in hospitals such as IBM’s Watson. Comparator data for other tumor types is expected to be available by the end of 2016.

Are the drug manufacturers disgruntled by the current wave of resistance against drug pricing? The argument is that pharma needs a return on their investment, which is years of research and multiple failures before a target molecule is identified and successfully developed into a product. According to Dr Gregory P. Rossi, vice president for Payer and Real World Evidence at AstraZeneca, technical risk, time, and market assumptions all impact investment decisions. So considering these investment costs, treatments directed at small patient populations require higher drug prices to gain returns.

"A company that has an effective drug that's appropriately priced should welcome these blocks," said Dr Robert Carlson, NCCN's chief executive. If a drug is overpriced, "that's very important information for everybody."

Health plans and pharmacy benefit managers, meanwhile, have also been more vigilant, with preferred lists of medications and tiered formularies. Patients, too, are more involved with understanding the cost and quality of care provided by a specific drug. But working in isolated pockets may not be the best model to achieve measurable outcomes. What we need is for the various factions to come to the table to achieve the common goal of better care at “reasonable” costs.