BMJ Open. 2023 Oct 16;13(10):e066378. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2022-066378.
OBJECTIVE: To examine characteristics of clinician input to the pan-Canadian Oncology Drug Review (pCODR) for cancer drug funding recommendations from 2016 to 2020.
DESIGN, SETTING AND PARTICIPANTS: Descriptive, cross-sectional study including 62 reimbursement decisions from pCODR from 2016 to 2020.
INTERVENTIONS: pCODR recommendations were analysed for the number of clinicians consulted on each submission, affiliation, number of submissions per clinician, declared financial conflicts of interest (FCOIs), randomisation, type of blinding, primary endpoint, study phase, and whether the study demonstrated improvement in overall survival (OS) and progression-free survival (PFS).
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: The main outcome was clinician support for the initial funding recommendation. Secondary outcome measures were the association between clinician FCOIs and clinical benefit in positive recommendations.
RESULTS: The study consisted of 62 submissions, in which 48 included clinician input. A total of 129 unique clinicians provided 342 consultations. The majority (59%) provided input on less than 5 submissions; however, a small proportion (4%) consulted on over 10. Nearly all clinicians were physicians (125; 96%). From the 342 consultations, 228 declared financial conflicts (67%). The most common conflicts were payments for advisory roles (51%) and honorariums (23%). Of the 48 cancer drugs under review, clinicians recommended funding 46 (96%). Only 12 (25%) demonstrated substantial benefit, according to the European Society for Medical Oncology Magnitude of Clinical Benefit Scale score. Drugs recommended for funding were more likely to have improved PFS and OS data. However, most cancer drugs supported by clinicians demonstrated no change in health-related quality of life (HRQoL), including one that demonstrated worsened HRQoL. There was no statistically significant difference between FCOI status and recommending drugs with health gains.
CONCLUSION: Clinicians offer crucial information on funding decisions. However, we found clinicians strongly supported funding nearly all cancer drugs under review, despite most not offering substantial benefit to patients nor gains in quality of life. While these drugs might be helpful options in clinical practice, funding numerous cancer drugs may be unsustainable for public health systems.