Medical Treatment Expenses for Lung Cancer in Japan

Motoi Nishi


Background: Since 1993 lung cancer has been the leading cause of death due to cancer in Japan. In December 2015, nivolumab was approved for the treatment of lung cancer in this country and dramatic effects have been noted in many patients. However, its price is very high, which is one of the causes of rising national medical expenses.

Materials: In 2009 the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of the Japanese Government began to publish the data of medical treatment expenses for the main malignant neoplasms. The numbers of deaths due to malignant neoplasms, including lung cancer, and medical treatment expenses from 2009 to 2017 were obtained from the data published on the sites of the ministry.

Results: From 2015 to 2016, the number of deaths from lung cancer decreased, though it increased from 2009 to 2015. The medical treatment expenses for this cancer increased from 2009 to 2015, but from 2015 to 2016 they increased largely for all age groups (45-64, 65-74 and 75+ years). The increase in the percentage of the expenses spent by the group aged 45-64 years at outpatient clinics from 2015 to 2016 was the highest (10.1 points), and was about 2 times larger than that of those aged 75 and older (4.58). The expense to decrease one death from lung cancer (about $200,000) in the group aged 65-74 years was the smallest, being about 40% of that for the group aged 75 and older (about $500,000). The greater part of the increase in the sale of nivolumab from 2015 to 2016 (about 80%) may be accounted for by medical treatment expenses for lung cancer.

Discussion: It is certain that the introduction of nivolumab for the treatment of lung cancer brought about the increase in the medical treatment expenses from 2015 to 2016. There is a possibility that the cost and quality of life due to treatment with this drug differ by age.

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