Canada Pays Half As Much For Drugs As U.S., Get Similar Results
A new study is showing what many people in the United States already believed. Americans routinely pay more for health care than people in other countries, but the added costs don’t equal better outcomes. In fact, the new study shows that Americans paid twice as much as Canadians for cancer treatments, but lived for about the same amount of time as their northern counterparts.
The new study, based on patients with advanced colorectal cancer, was conducted by researchers at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center in Seattle and the British Columbia Cancer Agency. The research was presented at the American Society of Clinical Oncology’s annual meeting in Chicago.
The study analyzed two similar populations diagnosed with advanced colorectal cancer in 2010, 1,622 in Canada and 575 in Washington. The patients had similar diagnoses, levels of education, financial situations and other demographics. The U.S. patients were a little younger as a group than the Canadian patients.
The study found that a total of about $12,345 was spent a month on the cancer patients who lived in western Washington, while the monthly spending for patients in British Columbia was $6,195. While American patients’ treatment was twice as expensive, Americans died slightly faster than Canadians in the study. The American patients survived about 21.4 months with treatment, while in British Columbia, it was 22.1 months. According to previous research, this survival time is consistent with this kind of cancer.
Dr. Todd Yezefski, a senior fellow in the Clinical Research Division at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center and Division of Medical Oncology at the University of Washington, said, “This is the first study that we know of that has looked at something like this that showed cost, utilization, and outcome, and we’d love to get more data to know more detail about doctor visits and use of radiation and surgery so we could understand this even further.”
While the study only looked at one type of disease, there may be a larger lesson to be gleaned from the data. One of the biggest differences in health care in the United States and health care in Canada is that in Canada the government sets the prices for what they pay for drugs while in the U.S., the government leaves drug pricing to market forces. Administrative costs also add a considerable amount to what Americans pay for health care, while in British Columbia, hospitals get a lump-sum budget that covers administrative costs.