Cancer drug prices vary across the globe as countries strike deals with Big Pharma: Study

Rising drug prices have sparked backlash across the globe. But new research shows that cancer drug prices, even among those that regulate the price of drugs, vary dramatically. Sweden, Switzerland and Germany pay the most for cancer meds, and the U.K., Spain, Portugal and Greece pay the least, among nations recently studied. And with countries striking exclusive deals to gain discounts from drugmakers, the disparity in prices is likely to grow. 

The findings, published in The Lancet Oncology, were derived by researchers who sifted through information for 31 cancer drugs in 16 European countries, Among their findings was that Eli Lilly's ($LLY) cancer drug Gemzar, for example, cost €209 ($228) per vial in New Zealand and €43 per vial in Australia. And Merck's ($MRK) skin and blood cancer med Intron costs triple in Germany than what it does in Greece. 

Things will probably continue in the same vein as countries cut deals with drugmakers to get discounts on pricey meds. Last year, France made a pact with Gilead Sciences ($GILD) to get the company's hep C powerhouse Sovaldi at the lowest price in Europe. Countries such as Australia, the U.K., Norway and the Netherlands have all cut deals with drugmakers to get lower prices on expensive meds. 

Sabine Vogler

Still, the strategy doesn't come without its setbacks. Discounts usually aren't disclosed, Bloomberg points out, so countries that set reimbursement based on what their neighbors pay for a drug could be missing out on the best prices.

"Although these agreements ensure patient access to new drugs, other countries risk overpaying when setting drug pricing," Sabine Vogler, an economist leading the World Health Organization's (WHO) Collaborating Centre for Pharmaceutical Pricing and Reimbursement Policies in Vienna, told Bloomberg. "There needs to be far more transparency."

- read the Lancet Oncology abstract
- here's the Bloomberg story

Special Report: The top 10 most expensive drugs of 2013

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