Cost of cancer care in Portugal.

António Araújo, Fernando Barata, Sérgio Barroso, Paulo Cortes, Margarida Damasceno, António Parreira, Jorge Espírito Santo, Encarnação Teixeira, Ricardo Pereira


Cancer is the second most important cause of death in Portugal, following cardiovascular diseases (CVD), and shows a constant progressive increase in the proportional share of total deaths. In Portugal, as in most countries, the health care budget is under constant cost-containment pressures. In this context it is necessary to verify if enough resources have been allocated to the disease in terms of health care expenditure. The main objective of this study is to estimate the cost of cancer care in Portugal and to compare it to similar data in Europe and the United States of America (USA), to the cost of CVD. The secondary objective is to evaluate the cost of pharmaceuticals used in the treatment of cancer in Portugal, both in relation to total pharmaceutical expenditure and to other therapeutic areas.Three main sources of information were used: comprehensive literature review, primary and secondary data sources, and a modified Delphi Panel, which was used to fill in gaps in the information derived from the data sources and the literatura review. The burden of cancer was measured through the Disability-adjusted life-year (DALY) and, in order to determine the costs of cancer, detailed information on the costs of medical visits and of inpatient episodes based on Diagnosis Related Groups (DRG), in 2006, was used. To estimate the total cost of cancer, we used a combination of top down (breaking global expenditure data to specific levels) and bottom up methodology (based on the sum of different components).Based on 2006 data on direct medical care expenditures in Portugal, we found that 565 million euro were spent on cancer in comparison to 1 320 million on CVD representing 3.91% and 9.14% of total cost on health respectively. When we break down total expenditure on drugs by therapeutic area we find that CVD drugs represent about 21.6% of total drug costs in Portugal and cancer drugs represent about 5.6% of the total. Oncology drugs represent 32% of the total expenditure on cancer, while CVD drugs represent 54% of the total expenditure on CVD. In comparison, in terms of BoD in Portugal, 18.6% of DALY's were associated with CVD and 15.3% with cancer.Considering the burden of disease (BoD) of CVD and cancer in Portugal, we can state that the expenditure allocated to cancer is significantly lower than expected. Using the criterion of expenditure according to need, we observed that there is an imbalance of expense/BoD in oncology indicating that cancer seems to be underfunded in Portugal. Even considering that this shouldn't be the only criterion to determine the volume of expense in a certain therapeutic area, the differential observed in this study is sufficiently high to deserve attention from the decision-makers.

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