Publication Abstract

Authors: Jacobs BL, Zhang Y, Skolarus TA, Hollenbeck BK

Title: Growth of high-cost intensity-modulated radiotherapy for prostate cancer raises concerns about overuse.

Journal: Health Aff (Millwood) 31(4):750-9

Date: 2012 Apr

Abstract: To study the impact of new, expensive, and unproven therapies to treat prostate cancer, we investigated the dissemination of intensity-modulated radiotherapy (IMRT). IMRT is an innovative treatment for prostate cancer that delivers higher doses of radiation with improved precision compared to alternative radiotherapies. We observed rapid adoption of this new treatment among men diagnosed with prostate cancer from 2001 through 2007, despite uncertainty about its relative effectiveness. We compared patient and disease characteristics of those receiving IMRT and the previous radiation standard of care, three-dimensional conformal therapy; assessed intermediate-term outcomes; and examined potential factors associated with the increased use of IMRT. We found that in the early period of IMRT adoption (2001-03) men with high-risk disease were more likely to receive IMRT, whereas after IMRT's initial dissemination (2004-07) men with low-risk disease had fairly similar likelihoods of receiving IMRT as men with high-risk disease. This raises concerns about overtreatment, as well as considerable health care costs, because treatment with IMRT costs $15,000-$20,000 more than other standard therapies. As health care delivery reforms gain traction, policy makers must balance the promotion of new, yet unproven, technology with the risk of overuse.