NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


July 24, 2008

A major international study recently confirms that U.S. medicine bests the cancer treatment available to people in 30 other countries, says Dr. David Gratzer, a physician, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, and author of "The Cure: How Capitalism Can Save American Health Care" (Encounter Books, 2006).

The study, to be published in the August issue of the Lancet, compares five-year cancer survival rates of almost two million cancer patients in 31 different countries for breast cancer in women, prostate cancer, and colon and rectal cancer in women and men.  The study found that the United States leads in the field of breast and prostate cancer and clearly leads other nations in overall survival.

Lancet Oncology also published a comparison of American and European care, which concluded:

  • The United States fared better in 13 of the 16 cancers studied.
  • Five-year survival rates for cancer in men are 45 percent in England, but 66 percent in the United States.

British survival rates lag behind American survival rates for several reasons, says Gratzer:

  • Screening standards are different; in the United States, internists recommend that men 50 and older get screened for colon cancer, but screening does not begin until age 75 in the United Kingdom's government run National Health Service.
  • British patients wait much longer to see specialists; a study of British lung cancer treatment found in 2000 that 20 percent of potentially curable patients became incurable on the waiting list.
  • Novel drugs offered in the United States often aren't available in the United Kingdom; for instance, Avastin, a drug for advanced colon cancer, is prescribed by some estimates as much as 10 times more often in the United States than in the United Kingdom.

The federal government can take a leadership role in promoting competition in health care by creating greater transparency of prices, releasing more Medicare information on complications and outcomes, encouraging hospitals and clinics to standardize their health records, and slashing regulations that discourage competition, says Gratzer.

Source: David Gratzer, "American Cancer Care Beats the Rest," Wall Street Journal, July 22, 2008.

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