Use and costs of oral anticancer agents in the Netherlands in the period 2000-2008

PURPOSE: In recent years, the number of oral anticancer agents has increased substantially. Although these agents have quickly been incorporated in the treatment of a variety of malignancies, data on their incidence, prevalence and costs are lackin. The objective of the present study was to obtain insight into the use and the costs of oral anticancer agents (with Anatomical Therapeutic Chemical classification system (World Health Organisation) code L01) in the Netherlands between 2000 and 2008. METHODS: Incidence and prevalence were determined using community pharmacy dispensing records obtained from the PHARMO Record Linkage System database. The data of costs were provided by the Genees- en hulpmiddelen Informatie Project of the Dutch Health Care Insurance Board (CVZ, Diemen, The Netherlands). RESULTS: In the years 2000-2008, the use of oral anticancer agents has more than doubled from 64 to 140 users per 100 000 inhabitants. The increase is mainly caused by the prescription of capecitabine forvarious indications. There was a 50-fold rise in costs on oral anticancer agents from euro2 m in 2000 to approximately euro100 m in 2008. The share in the costs of tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) in 2008 was 67% (euro70 m) with the oldest TKI, imatinib, having a share of more than 50% within the group of TKIs. CONCLUSIONS: The increased use of oral anticancer agents is mainly due to the frequent prescription of capecitabine. The increased costs are caused by the registration of a variety of TKIs, inparticular imatinib. The costs of new agents with an orphan drug status are very high as compared with those of capecitabine, a newer agent for which there are alternative treatment options.

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