Changing the way we deliver immune-based cancer drugs could reduce costs by 14%

July 12, 2023
Using weight-based doses and sharing single-use vials could save millions of dollars annually.

A new analysis finds that up to millions of dollars could be saved annually on cancer immunotherapy treatments across the Veterans Health Administration by reconsidering how those drugs are delivered.

It’s a concept that could be applied to all cancer centers nationwide. Immune checkpoint inhibitors were initially tested and approved at weight-based dosages but then moved to one-size-fits-all flat doses, in part to reduce drug waste. But researchers from the University of Michigan Rogel Cancer Center found that if vials intended for a single patient’s use are shared across patients, then physicians could deliver customized doses while also reducing waste and costs.

To model the concept, researchers focused on data from the Veterans Health Administration, identifying records of patients who received at least one dose of any type of immune checkpoint inhibitor from a Veterans Affairs medical center in 2021 to create a simulation of how the drugs could be better stewarded. This included using weight-based doses and combining single-use vials across multiple patients rather than discarding any extra among.

The VHA spends hundreds of millions of dollars per year on immune checkpoint inhibitors. The researchers found that combining weight-based dosing and single-use vial sharing within each VA hospital’s pharmacy would reduce immune checkpoint spending by 14%. The study is published in Health Affairs.

University of Michigan release