Cancer services and research spending affected by global recession

Cancer services and research spending affected by global recession

According to several interconnected reports published in the March issue of The Lancet Oncology, in Europe and in the UK, governments´, companies', and individuals´ budgets are affected by the global financial crisis. This could result in the future in reduced access to costly cancer treatments, lower investment in drug research and declining support for cancer sufferers and survivors.

The irregular provision of screening programmes and uneven spending on cancer care imply that the effects of the economic crisis will be more intense in some areas, according to the reports.

Across Europe, inequalities in access to cancer services as well as new drugs are outlined in the first of the two Special Reports published in The Lancet Oncology.

Nils Wilking, Karolinska Institute, Sweden, co-author of the Comparator Report on Patient Access to Cancer Drugs in Europe, remarks: "Per capita spending on drugs (new as well as pre-1999) is significantly lower in the UK compared with France and almost all other western European countries".

As the economic crisis intensifies, it seems this spending will decrease even more. In a comment in the second Special Report, Nick Bosanquet, Imperial College, London, UK says: "In Europe there are likely to be informal steps towards rationing access to new treatments as governments seek to contain spending; we are already seeing this in the UK through the restrictions placed on the uptake of expensive drugs by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE)." Furthermore, Alan Maynard, University of York, UK, highlights: the UK Institute of Fiscal Studies calculates NHS funding may be equal to zero real growth for the 3 years following 2010. Considering the rest of Europe, Maynard also points out: "In Europe some will fare better but some will fare worse, notably Ireland and the Baltic republics."

With increasing unemployment and declining sales and profits, donations by companies and private individuals are likely to diminish. Cancer aid programmes and research that depend on charitable financial support are expected to deteriorate. A fall of 4 to 5 percent in income in 2009 compared with 2008 is predicted by Cancer Research UK. Macmillan Cancer Support, forecasts that the economic crisis will particularly affect cancer patients depending on their financial aid.

As budgets squeeze, there is greater need for competent administration and equal supply of cancer services. However, this seems very remote due to the present inequalities and misuse, as pointed out by The Lancet Oncology, in this month´s editorial, the Leading Edge.

Observing on the expanding disparities in access to cancer treatment across the UK, The Lancet Oncology says: "This makes a mockery of the concept of a 'National' Health Service, when the four countries within the UK each have different interpretations…In the current global recession, a root and branch re-evaluation of services, focused on patient-centred medicine…would undoubtedly improve care for patients with cancer; reduce polarisation in accessibility; and possibly even shrink healthcare budgets".


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Section Issues On Medicine: Disease