The UK is lagging behind Europe in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer, finds a new report compiled by Swedish Institute for Health Economics for the Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry.
The report, launched alongside a new toolkit to help compare the data, shows that cancer patients in England have worse survival rates after five years compared to the European average in nine out of ten cancers - only overshooting the EU average in melanoma.
For example, the UK has worst survival rates for ovarian cancer, with only 34 percent alive five years after diagnosis compared to the European average of 41 percent, while it has the second worst survival rates for lung and pancreatic cancers.
The report also found that the UK spends over 20 percent less per person on cancer than the top five EU economies, 20 percent less of its total health budget on cancer than the rest of the EU, and 10 percent less of its GDP on healthcare than the rest of the EU.
Further highlighting the gaps, the authors claim that if the UK achieved the cancer survival rates of Germany, over 35,000 more people would be alive five years after diagnosis, and that, if the UK had the mortality rates of France, more than 100,000 women’s deaths could be prevented over the next decade.
It also stressed that access to cancer medicines is consistently lower than most European countries, and that cancer medicines introduced in the last five years account for only ten percent of the total cancer medicine costs in a given year, suggesting that the UK is using older medicines and thus patients are missing out on the latest innovations.
“The report shows the impact that comparatively lower levels of UK investment in cancer is having on the quality of care available to British patients,” noted the ABPI’s executive director Dr Richard Torbett.
“We are seeing that investment in cancer diagnosis and treatments like surgery, medicine and radiotherapy, in countries across Europe is leading to better survival rates and we have to ask whether this should be the ambition for the NHS.”
He said the findings should be “a wake-up call for the UK to refocus the way we tackle cancer across the board,” and called for a greater investment to speed up implementation of the Cancer Strategy, improved patient access to cost-effective medicines in the NHS, and “a more ambitious plan for using real world evidence to shine a light on cancer treatment outcomes” to help quicken progress.
But in response to the report, a spokeswoman for NHS England told The Guardian: “The ABPI is hardly a disinterested commentator and it should have the intellectual honesty to acknowledge what the independent cancer taskforce set out, namely that the biggest opportunities for further improvements in UK cancer survival currently come mainly from earlier diagnosis, and modern radiotherapy and surgery, as against just higher spending on cancer drugs with a modest impact on life expectancy”.