As Medical Costs Mount, Japan To Weigh Cost-Effectiveness In Setting Drug Prices | 2/18/2019 | Staff
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TOKYO (Reuters) – Japanese doctor Yasushi Goto remembers prescribing the cancer drug Opdivo to an octogenarian and wondering whether taxpayers might object to helping fund treatment, which at the time cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, for patients in their twilight years.

Japanese have easy access to new medicines, whose prices are decided by the government and subsidized by the country’s public health insurance system.

Japan - Ballooning - Cost - Population - Test

But that may change. Japan, confronted with the ballooning cost of caring for an aging population, is introducing a cost-effectiveness test for drugs as a means of capping prices.

There are no plans to deny care for patients of any age. But limiting the prices of innovative but costly treatments might chase new drugs out of the $86 billion Japanese market, drugmakers say.

Patient - Opdivo - Lot - People - Patients

“If you ask whether it’s worth prescribing an 85-year-old patient Opdivo, a lot of people will say no. But patients and family members are going to say yes,” said Goto, who works at the National Cancer Centre Hospital.

Patients also fear more drastic changes, such as denying access to new medicines; Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s economic council in December proposed considering cost in determining whether to approve treatments.

Cancer - Patients - Government - Analysis - Treatments

“For cancer patients like us, it’s not acceptable if the government applies a cost-effective analysis in determining whether to approve treatments,” said Yoshiyuki Majima, a director of patient advocacy group Rare Cancers Japan.

The Japanese government estimates that public medical spending could surge 75 percent to 68.5 trillion yen ($624 billion) by 2040.

Japan - Difficulties - Security - Service - Government

“It is obvious that Japan will face difficulties in providing social security service,” said a government official involved in the discussions, declining to be named because he is not authorized to speak to media. “The cost-effectiveness analysis is a means to secure sustainability.”

The system that will be adopted in April, according to a draft published on the health ministry’s...
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