High-cost cancer drugs often get bad press. Cancer treatment certainly is expensive. However, drug costs are not the primary driver of high cost of cancer treatment; hospitalizations are. Using data from SEER-Medicare, Brooks et al. (2014) examine regional variation in the cost of cancer care and find:
Acute hospital care was the largest component of spending and the chief driver of regional spending variation, accounting for 48 percent of spending and 67 percent of variation. In contrast, chemotherapy accounted for 16 percent of spending and 10 percent of variation. Hospice care constituted 5 percent of spending.
Thus, providing high-value cancer care may not involve reduced spending on high-value drugs, but rather higher quality treatment that can (hopefully) keep patients with cancer out of the hospital.