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Cost of care for patients in cancer clinical trials

BACKGROUND: Information on the costs of medical care for patients enrolled in clinical trials is needed by policymakers evaluating ways to facilitate clinical research in a managed care environment. We examined the direct costs of medical care for patients enrolled in cancer clinical trials at a large health maintenance organization (HMO). METHODS: Costs for 135 patients who entered 22 cancer clinical trials (including 12 breast cancer trials) at Kaiser Permanente in Northern California, from 1994 through 1996 were compared with costs for 135 matched control subjects who were not enrolled in such trials. Cancer registry data and medical charts were used in matching the control subjects to the trial enrollees with respect to cancer site, stage, date of diagnosis, age, sex, and trial eligibility. The direct costs of medical care were compared between trial enrollees and the control subjects for a 1-year period, with data on costs and utilization of services obtained from Kaiser Permanente databases and medical charts. RESULTS: Mean 1-year costs for the enrollees in trials were 10% higher than those for the control subjects ($17 003 per enrollee compared with $15 516 per control subject; two-sided P =.011). The primary component of this difference was a $1376 difference in chemotherapy costs ($4815 per trial enrollee versus $3439 per control subject; two-sided P<.001). Costs for the 11 enrollees in trials that had a bone marrow transplant (BMT) arm were approximately double the costs for their matched control subjects (borderline significance: two-sided P=.054). The $15 041 mean cost for the enrollees in trials without BMT was similar to the $15 186 mean cost for their matched control subjects. CONCLUSIONS: Participation in cancer clinical trials at a large HMO did not result in substantial increases in the direct costs of medical care.

Authors: Fireman BH; Fehrenbacher L; Gruskin EP; Ray GT

J Natl Cancer Inst. 2000 Jan 19;92(2):136-42.

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