Health Economics, Policy and Law


Valuing end-of-life care in the United States: the case of new cancer drugs

Corinna Sorenson 

Research Fellow in Health Policy, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Health, London, UK


New cancer therapies offer the hope of improved diagnosis to patients with life-threatening disease. Over the past 5–10 years, a number of specialty drugs have entered clinical practice to provide better systemic therapy for advanced cancers that respond to few therapeutic alternatives. To date, however, such advances have been only modestly effective in extending life and come with a high price tag, raising questions about their value for money, patient access and implications for health care costs. This article explores some of the key issues present in valuing end-of-life care in the United States in the case of advanced cancer drugs, from the difficult trade-offs between their limited health benefits and high costs to the technical, political and social challenges in assessing their value and applying such evidence to inform policy and practice. A number of initial steps are discussed that could be pursued to improve the value of advanced cancer care.


Correspondence to: Corinna Sorenson, London School of Economics and Political Science, LSE Health, Cowdray House, Houghton Street, London WC2A 2AE, UK. Email: