Cancer patients in the USA get faster access to more oncology drugs to treat their disease than patients in Europe, but Americans have to pay more for the treatments.

That is the conclusion of analysis by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development, which found that new oncology drug approvals in the USA outpaced European approvals by 33% between 2000 and 2011 (40 drugs versus 30). The study also noted that the price of cancer treatments in Europe, on average, are 9% lower than across the pond, while patient cost-sharing is much lower in Europe than the USA, where the average co-insurance rate per covered drug is 33%.

Joshua Cohen, research assistant professor at Tufts CSDD who conducted the analysis, said that while greater access to more treatment options "is definitely a positive for patients in the USA, it is not clear if greater access leads to better health outcomes". He added that the growing use of comparative effectiveness research, "which provides information on the relative strengths and weaknesses of different medical technologies, could help close the gap between what is known and what is done in pharmaceutical care".

Prof `Cohen concluded by saying that "although more oncology drugs are available in the USA, and the costs for a higher share of them are reimbursed, the evidence-based approach adopted by European systems have improved the affordability of drugs…that are considered to be cost-effective".