Common Bone Complications in Advanced Prostate Cancer Patients Lead to Increased Medical Costs

Study Led by NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia Physician-Scientist and Presented at ASCO Meeting in New Orleans

Jun 6, 2004

New York, NY

Bone complications associated with prostate cancer cause a substantial economic burden, according to a new study led by a physician-scientist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center and presented today at the American Society of Clinical Oncology's (ASCO) 40th Annual Meeting in New Orleans.

As prostate cancer advances, it typically spreads from the original tumor site to the bone. This process, known as bone metastasis, puts patients at risk of complications such as fractures, excessive blood levels of calcium (hypercalcemia), spinal cord compression, or severe pain requiring surgery. Together, these complications are known as Skeletal Related Events (SREs). Bone metastases occur in 65 to 75 percent of all advanced prostate cancer patients, and about 20 percent of newly diagnosed prostate cancer patients already have bone metastases at the time of diagnosis.

The study finds that the total treatment cost for cancer patients with SREs was 50 percent greater than total costs for patients without the complications. The difference in cost per patient was $20,000 over a period of 10 to 13 months.

SREs not only have immediate impact on patient treatment, but, to an extent not previously estimated, they dramatically increase total treatment costs over the lifetime of the patient, says, Dr. James McKiernan, assistant professor of urology at Columbia University College of Physicians Surgeons and assistant attending urologist at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia. Fortunately, available data suggest that early treatment can reduce the risk of developing these complications, and therefore, might help to reduce treatment cost.

The study identified 262 patients, half with SREs, and half without. We looked at the total costs, in contrast to previous studies that estimated the costs of SREs by only tallying costs for services specifically attributable to these events, an approach may underestimate costs if SREs have effects on other services, says Dr. McKiernan. For the SRE group, the expected costs of care directly attributable to SREs were $9,783 per patient. Yet, total medical-care costs for the SRE group were comparatively $20,484 greater ($59,522 vs. $39,038).

More than 230,000 men in the U.S. will be diagnosed with prostate cancer this year. Although prostate cancer can occasionally strike younger men, the risk of prostate cancer increases with age and more than 70 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer are over the age of 65.

The study will be presented at ASCO by Jane Brandman, MS, of Novartis Oncology. The study was funded by Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. of East Hanover, NJ.