Warren Stevens, Tomas Philipson, Yanyu Wu, Connie Chen, Darius Lakdawalla
June 26, 2014
Payers increasingly require evidence of a statistically significant difference in overall survival (OS) for reimbursement of new cancer therapies. At the same time, it becomes increasingly costly to design clinical trials that measure OS endpoints instead of progression-free survival (PFS) endpoints. While PFS is often an imperfect proxy for OS effects, it is also faster and cheaper to measure accurately. This study develops a general cost-benefit framework that quantifies the competing trade-offs of the use of PFS versus that of OS in oncology reimbursement. We then apply this general framework to the illustrative case of metastatic renal cell carcinoma (mRCC). In the particular case of mRCC, the framework demonstrates that the net benefit to society from basing reimbursement decisions on PFS endpoints could be between $271 and $1271 million in the United States, or between €171 and €1128 million in Europe. In longevity terms, waiting for OS data in this case would result in a net loss of 3549–14,557 life-years among US patients, or 6785–27,993 life-years for European patients. While more stringent standards for medical evidence improve accuracy, they also impose countervailing costs on patients in terms of foregone health gains. These costs must be weighed against the benefits of greater accuracy. The magnitudes of the costs and benefits may vary across tumor types and need to be quantified systematically.