New analysis examines the impact of access to immuno-oncology therapies on cancer patient’s health and the Australian economy.

Save Print

November 22, 2021 6:00 am Australia/Sydney

In Australia 40% of people diagnosed with cancer will be of working age.1 A cancer diagnosis may disrupt a person’s ability to actively participate in the workforce – which has an economic impact on the individual and the economy.1

Immuno-oncology medicines are emerging as a first-line treatment for several advanced cancers2,3 – and whilst they have been extensively studied for survival outcomes compared to the standard of care (e.g., chemotherapy),3 a new analysis shows they could also play a significant role in Australia’s society and the economy.4

The Health Impact Projection (HIP) 2.0 analysis, commissioned by MSD, estimated the benefit derived from helping patients stay in the workplace, stay out of hospital, and contributing to their communities and the economy.4

The analysis shows that if immuno-oncology therapies were used for all eligible patients across eight tumour types in 2021-2025, these therapies could help patients work an additional 20 million hours.5 This is the equivalent of 2,385 people working full-time for 5 years (35 hours per week, 48 weeks per year).* This could result in a $1.4 billion rise in patient productivity, or nearly $23,000 per patient.4

Combined with other factors, this could lead to more than $40 million in additional economic contributionsincluding lower out-of-pocket costs for patients by $28 million or 7.5%, and lower end-of-life costs by about $13,000 a year per patient.4

Additionally, HIP 2.0 revealed that if immuno-oncology therapies were used for all eligible patients in eight tumour types in 2021-2025, these therapies could add close to 48,000 life years for these Australian cancer patients – an increase of 37%; and add nearly 37,000 progression-free survival years, the time a patient lives with a cancer that doesn’t get worse – an increase of 63%.4

“This modelling shows immuno-oncology medicines have the potential to impact beyond improving survival – helping some patients return to work and community life. This in turn leads to considerable incremental societal and economic benefits,” said Dr Christopher Steer, medical oncologist at Border Medical Oncology at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre in regional NSW, Australia.

Currently, the government invests 0.32% of total health expenditure on immuno-oncology therapies.4 While HIP 2.0 show the cost to government for funding immuno-oncology therapies are higher than for other cancer treatments, it is important to recognise the broader economic benefits and returns that access to these medicines would provide.

About HIP 2.0. Health Impact Projection 2.0 Australia (HIP 2.0) models the health outcomes of immuno-oncology therapies in cancer care in Australia. It was based on a projected 95,945 patients treated with anti-PD-1P/PD-L1immuno-oncology medicine over five years (2021–2025) for different cancers (adjuvant melanoma, metastatic melanoma, non-small cell lung cancer, metastatic triple-negative breast cancer, head and neck, urothelial carcinoma, renal cell cancer, endometrial cancer, and oesophageal cancer). The analysis concluded that the amount of time for immuno-oncology medicines to receive national reimbursement has a significant impact on health outcomes for Australian patients and highlighted the importance of policy work to provide faster access to these cancer treatments. 

*Based on full-time work = 35 hour per week x 48 weeks per annum (1,680 hours p.a.), over 2021-25 period. (20,038,202 hours/1,680/5 = 2,385)


Notes to editor: Dr Christopher Steer is a medical oncologist at Border Medical Oncology at the Albury Wodonga Regional Cancer Centre in regional NSW, Australia. He has been involved in clinical trials sponsored by MSD. He has received honoraria as a member of advisory boards for MSD. In relation to this media announcement, no compensation was provided to Dr Christopher Steer and the opinions expressed are his own. Outside his clinical role Dr Steer is involved in various medical organisations including the Medical Oncology Group of Australia Incorporated, Cancer Drugs Alliance and is President of the Private Cancer Physicians of Australia organisation.

About MSD. For more than 125 years, MSD has been inventing for life, bringing forward medicines and vaccines for many of the world’s most challenging diseases in pursuit of our mission to save and improve lives. MSD is a trade name of Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, N.J., U.S.A. We demonstrate our commitment to patients and population health by increasing access to health care through far-reaching policies, programs, and partnerships. Today, MSD continues to be at the forefront of research to prevent and treat diseases that threaten people and animals – including cancer, infectious diseases such as HIV and Ebola, and emerging animal diseases – as we aspire to be the premier research-intensive biopharmaceutical company in the world. For more information, visit and connect with us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Copyright © 2021 Merck & Co., Inc., Kenilworth, NJ, USA, and its affiliates. All rights reserved. Merck Sharp & Dohme (Australia) Pty Limited. Level 1, Building A, 26 Talavera Road, Macquarie Park NSW 2113. First issued November 2021. AU-NON-00470.


  1. Bates, N., Callander, E., Lindsay, D. et al. Labour force participation and the cost of lost productivity due to cancer in Australia. BMC Public Health 18, 375 (2018).
  2. Robert, C. A decade of immune-checkpoint inhibitors in cancer therapy. Nat Commun. 11, 3801 (2020).
  3. Kaufman, H.L., Atkins, M.B., Subedi, P. et al. The promise of Immuno-oncology: implications for defining the value of cancer treatment. j. immunotherapy cancer 7, 129 (2019).
  4. Health Impact Projection 2.0 Australia. Adelphi Values & PROVE. August 2021. MSD Australia.
  5. Health Impact Projection 2.0 Australia. Adelphi Values & PROVE. August 2021. Abstract COSA 2021. MSD Australia.