New cancer drugs debut faster in U.S., but they cost more

The good news for U.S. cancer patients: New drugs get to market faster in the U.S. than they do elsewhere. The bad news: There's a higher price tag for that speed.

From 2000 to 2011, FDA ushered 33% more new cancer drugs onto the market than their counterparts in Europe did, according to a study by the Tufts Center for the Study of Drug Development. But cancer drugs cost 9% less in Europe than they do in the U.S. That's because of cost-effectiveness assessments, like those conducted by the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, Tufts says.

"Although more oncology drugs are available in the U.S., 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 in Europe that are considered to be cost-effective," Assistant Professor Joshua P. Cohen said in a statement.

Forbes notes some considerable differences in approval times for well-known cancer drugs. For instance, Novartis' ($NVS) breakthrough blood-cancer therapy Gleevec was approved in the EU 11 months after FDA gave its blessing. GlaxoSmithKline's ($GSK) Tykerb got the European nod 15 months after its FDA approval. The price differences on some drugs are also quite considerable; Forbes cites Sanofi's ($SNY) $1,790 price tag on Campath in the U.S., compared with $570 in Europe, where it's marketed by Bayer.

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