Worldwide spending on cancer medicines will exceed US$150 billion by 2020, driven by the emergence of expensive new therapies that help the immune system to attack tumours, according to a global oncology report released by IMS Health Holdings.
That represents an annual global growth rate for oncology drug spending of 7.5 percent to 10.5 percent through 2020, up from last year's IMS forecast of 6 percent to 8 percent growth through 2018.
The figures are based on the medicines' list prices, which exclude discounts and rebates, and also include supportive care drugs to address side effects like nausea and anaemia associated with many treatments, particularly chemotherapies.
Global oncology drug spending reached US$107 billion in 2015, an 11.5 percent increase over the prior year and up from US$90 billion in 2011, as some 70 new cancer treatments for more than 20 tumour types entered the market over the past five years, IMS found.
"The new science redefining cancer as a large number of narrowly defined diseases and yielding therapeutic options for an expanding number of patients is rapidly transforming the oncology treatment landscape," Murray Aitken, executive director of the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics, which produced the report, said in a statement.
However, more than half of those new drugs are available to patients in only six countries, and even fewer are reimbursed under public insurance programs, the report said.
The report was released just before the American Society of Clinical Oncology meeting in Chicago, the year's most important scientific cancer meeting.
The transformed landscape has been shaped by a wave of new drugs that enable patients' own immune systems to better attack cancer, leading to unprecedented survival rates for some of the most deadly diseases, such as advanced melanoma and advanced lung cancer.
Bristol-Myers Squibb Co and Merck & Co Inc have been leaders in the field, while Roche Holding AG last week won US approval for an immunotherapy that became the first new treatment for advanced bladder cancer in 30 years.