SINGAPORE – The cost of cancer treatment has risen at a much faster rate than other medical treatments.
The MediShield Life Council has reported to the Department of Health (MOH) that spending on cancer drugs is increasing 20% annually, compared to 6% for other drugs.
With more cancer patients seeking treatment, MediShield Life payments for outpatient cancer treatment increased by more than 50%, from $109 million in 2017 to $168 million in 2020.
To curb soaring costs, the Department of Health announced last August that it would allow insurance to cover only effective and cost-effective drugs and treatments on a new list of cancer drugs.
The list will cover 90% of treatments provided in public hospitals.
The MOH’s Agency for Healthcare Efficiency said cancer patients accounted for about 2% of all patients, but cancer drugs accounted for 35% of public sector drug spending.
He said that on average, 50% of new cancer drugs or newly discovered uses of existing drugs enter the market without any evidence that they improve survival or quality of life.
For the five-year period from 2017 to 2021, these expenditures increased by 90% to $275 million, while overall national age-adjusted cancer mortality improved by 2.1%.
The agency was created in 2015 to assess the impact and value of health technologies.
From September 2022
MediSave withdrawal and MediShield coverage will be limited to drugs and treatments on the Cancer Drug List.
This list has been compiled with input from cancer physicians from the public and private sectors and relates to treatments that have been shown to be both effective and cost-effective.
Those who are not on the list cannot be covered.
At the same time, the Ministry of Health changed the amount of cancer coverage by MediShield Life, the compulsory national health insurance.
Instead of a flat rate of up to $3,000 per month, it will only cover the most expensive drug when more than one drug is prescribed. If it is a combination therapy that is on the list, all combination therapy drugs will be covered with amounts ranging from $200 to $9,600 per month.