Financial Burden of Cancer Drug Treatment in Lebanon


Ministry of Public Health, Faculty of Medical Sciences, Beirut, Lebanon Email :


Background: The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) in Lebanon provides cancer drugs free of charge for uninsured patients who account for more than half the total caseload. Other categories of cancer care are subsidized under more stringent eligibility criteria. MOPHs large database offers an excellent opportunity to analyze the cost of cancer treatment in Lebanon. Materials and Methods: Using utilization and spending data accumulated at MOPH during 20082013, the cost to the public budget of cancer drugs was assessed per case and per drug type. Results: The average annual cost of cancer drugs was 6,475$ per patient. Total cancer drug costs were highest for breast cancer, followed by chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), colorectal cancer, lung cancer, and NonHodgkins lymphoma (NHL), which together represented 74% of total MOPH cancer drug expenditure. The annual average cancer drug cost per case was highest for CML ($31,037), followed by NHL ($11,566). Trastuzumab represented 26% and Imatinib 15% of total MOPH cancer drug expenditure over six years. Conclusions: Sustained increase in cancer drug cost threatens the sustainability of MOPH coverage, so crucial for socially vulnerable citizens. To enhance the bargaining position with pharmaceutical firms for drug cost containment in a small market like Lebanon, drug price comparisons with neighboring countries which have already obtained lower prices may succeed in lowering drug costs.