Cancer is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. Its incidence is increasing rapidly, for reasons that are not fully understood but which appear to be linked to lifestyle. Discovery Health’s data shows that cancer cases increased by over 45% between 2011 and 2018, with almost 8,500 new cases in 2018 alone. As a result, the Discovery Health Medical Scheme has seen an increase of over 100% in the costs of cancer-related treatment, from R1.5bn in 2011 to over R3.5bn in 2018. Encouragingly, new cancer medicines, including biologics and immunotherapy, show great potential to be life saving or life extending. However, these come at an extremely high cost. For example, a treatment cycle of Keytruda (an immunotherapy treatment for advanced melanoma) costs approximately R1.65m per treatment cycle, more than 250 times the cost of conventional chemotherapy for this condition. The combination of the increasing incidence of cancer and the rapidly rising costs of its treatment po...

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