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Is Cancer Community in Alignment About 'Cure' and 'Costs'? NCCN Conference Panel Asks
Date:3/7/2008

HOLLYWOOD, Fla., March 7, /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Cancer's two most compelling words these days are "cure" and "costs," and each holds capacity to create patient heartache and promise, according to roundtable participants at the National Comprehensive Cancer Network's 13th Annual Conference, March 5-9.

When doctors recommend cancer treatments, best practices dictate that they follow guidelines created by NCCN and other professional medical organizations. Currently, such guidelines do not include treatment-cost data. Leonard Saltz, M.D., of Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center said doctors traditionally assumed "we must be very sanctimonious and above the idea of considering cost." But panelists unanimously agreed -- and so did the majority of the audience by a show of hands -- that cost data should be appended to guidelines.

Panelist Alice Gosfield, an attorney with more than a decade of experience in oncology issues, condemned as "basically wrong" widespread reimbursement practices that profit doctors more who prescribe the most expensive drugs. She said that while it might be unfair to shoulder clinicians with the burden of factoring costs into a patient's treatment plan, insurers and others will be forced to make such decisions, and in the process "there will be blood."

Guidelines help oncologists evaluate treatments and reflect evolving professional consensus. NCCN's guidelines are the "Mercedes" of treatment standards, said David S. Ettinger, M.D., of the Sidney Kimmel Comprehensive Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins. In the future, adding cost data might help doctors choose between two chemotherapy regimens for colorectal cancer that, according to Saltz, are equally effective. Yet one costs $60,000 extra over the course of 10 months of treatment.

Aetna's James D. Cross, M.D., said that Aetna covers evidence-based treatments regardless of cost. "We exclude experimental treatments from most plans," he explained, but al
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SOURCE National Comprehensive Cancer Network
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