Costs of Conducting Cancer Clinical Trials

Published in: Managed Care and Cancer, v. 3, no. 2, Mar./Apr. 2001, p. 1-8

by Dana P. Goldman

Most health plans have policies that exclude coverage for services rendered in the course of a clinical trial. These policies almost certainly discourage trial enrollment. Some progress has been made recently in encouraging insurers to relax these restrictions, most notably in Medicare. However, many of these changes appear to be demonstrations, and continued progress hinges on better understanding of the true cost differences of treating a patient on a trial protocol. Some evidence from existing studies shows relatively modest, or no, cost differences between patients on protocol and matched controls. But the small sample sizes and the uniqueness of institutional settings make results difficult to generalize. The cost of Cancer Treatment Study is a 3-year study designed to provide such estimates. Approximately 1,500 cancer patients will be recruited from a broad cross section of trials and institutions. Ultimately, the study will answer precisely the question, How much more expensive is it to treat a patient on an NCI-sponsored clinical trial? This answer will allow policymakers, insurers, and other stakeholders to estimate the additional treatment costs, if any, of providing blanket access to clinical trials.

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