What price is a life?

Submitted by Georgia oa on 05 Sep 2022

Originally published 5 Sep 2022 | Updated 25 Sep 2023

“The true value of extending someone’s life is much greater than the dollar figures that are currently used to assess cancer treatments and medicines.”

Our CEO Peter Orchard is joining Rare Cancers Australia to launch an update of the ‘Counting the cost’ report and discuss why and how social return on investment needs to be considered when we decide which cancer treatments and medicines to fund. If you’re interested in healthcare decision making, this event is for you.

New report finds massive social and economic return on investing in non-curative cancers as the Australian Government reviews outdated economic equation driving the PBS 

Canteen and Rare Cancers Australia have today announced the findings of a jointly commissioned report to investigate the value of improving survival time and quality of life for people living with non-curative cancers.

The report coincides with the Australian Government’s review into the system we use for assessing new medicines, including for people with cancer. This assessment affects whether every Australian diagnosed with cancer has timely and affordable access to the medicines they need.

Right now, the decision to invest in a cancer treatment is assessed using an economic equation that includes ‘what a year of life is worth’. However, patient organisations such as Canteen and Rare Cancers Australia believe the value of a life goes far beyond simplistic number crunching.

The report ‘Counting the Cost: the true value of investing in cancer treatment’ found that every $1 invested in non-curative cancer treatments returns $3.06 worth of economic and social value.

The report also found that investments in new technologies, therapies and services to extend the prognosis and quality of life of people with non-curative cancers can return $3.17 billion of social value alone (over five years).

Peter Orchard, CEO of Canteen Australia, is regularly confronted with stories of young people who have lost a parent to cancer. The trauma can be very severe and the effects long lasting.

“Extending a young person’s or a parent’s life brings so many benefits to their family and society in general. We need to value the benefits of extending a parent’s life in a measurable and meaningful way because it goes far beyond simple economics,” Peter said.

“It is heartbreaking to watch people confront end of life decisions in the knowledge that suitable treatments already exist, but our “out-of-date" health system simply has too many barriers for people to access them. Our inaction on life-extending or lifesaving treatments has consequences on so many levels.”

Richard Vines, CEO of Rare Cancers Australia, said the organisation has supported thousands of families impacted by rare and less common cancers for over 10 years. They have witnessed first-hand the many effects cancer has on the entire family unit, including the financial implications.

“We hear too many stories of people living with cancer who have exhausted the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme funded standard of care and are faced with trying to find and fund other ways to survive,” Richard said.

“For some it’s accessing clinical trials, but the selection criteria is heartbreakingly tight. For others, it’s begging pharmaceutical companies for compassionate access. And for many, it’s dipping into superannuation and other assets, or crowdfunding, to pay $10,000 or more a month to potentially extend their lives.”

When a person’s quality of life can be improved and prolonged, there are enormous physical, psychological, social and economic benefits for the person with cancer, as well as  their partner, children, close friends and family, employer and society.  ‘Counting the Cost’ has identified the undeniable need to change how we assess the cost of medicines and the value of a life.

‘Counting the Cost – the true value of investing in cancer treatment’ will be launched at CanForum at Parliament House, Canberra on Tuesday 6 September.

For more information download the report here.