Background/Purpose This study aims to examine the cost effectiveness of treating major cancers compared with other major illnesses in Taiwan. Methods We collected data on 395,330 patients with cancer, 125,277 patients with end-stage renal disease, and 50,481 patients under prolonged mechanical ventilation during 1998–2007. They were followed for 10–13 years to estimate lifetime survival functions using a semiparametric method. EuroQol five-dimension was used to measure the quality of life for 6189 cancer patients and 1401 patients with other illnesses. The mean utility values and healthcare costs reimbursed by the National Health Insurance were multiplied with the corresponding survival probabilities to estimate quality-adjusted life expectancies and lifetime costs, respectively. Data of 22,344 cancer patients under hospice care (considered as a comparison group) were used to conduct a cost-effectiveness analysis. Sensitivity analysis was conducted by assuming patients without treatment survived for 2 years with a quality of life value of 0.5. Results The costs of care for patients under prolonged mechanical ventilation and those with end-stage renal disease were US$41,780–53,708 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY) and US$18,222–18,465 per QALY, respectively, which are equivalent to 2.17–2.79 gross domestic product (GDP) per capita per QALY and 1.18–1.25 GDP per capita per QALY. The costs of care for the nine different cancers were less than 1 GDP per capita per QALY, with those of lung, esophagus, and liver cancers being the highest. Sensitivity analysis showed the same conclusion. Lifetime risks of six out of nine cancer sites show an increased trend. Conclusion Cancer care in Taiwan seemed cost effective compared with that of other illnesses, but prevention is necessary to make the National Health Insurance more sustainable.
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