Medical innovations reduce the negative economic effects of cancer diagnoses for some, but not all

Cancer patient

New research by Sung-Hee Jeon (Statistics Canada) and R. Vincent Pohl (University of Georgia) shows that innovative cancer treatments may provide economic benefits that go beyond direct medical benefits.

In “Medical Innovation, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes of Cancer Patients,” a new Upjohn Institute working paper, Jeon and Pohl use Canadian administrative data to estimate whether new treatments for breast and prostate cancers lead to a reduction in the economic costs of cancer. Such treatments may come at steep financial costs so the authors account for indirect economic benefits, such as smaller reductions in income and associated tax revenues, to determine whether the benefits of a new treatment justifies its costs.

Their findings show that medical innovations reduce the negative employment effects of cancer diagnoses (e.g., reduced hours worked) and that substantial economic benefits result from such innovations. But they also show that patients with higher levels of education are more likely to receive those treatments—and therefore, both the medical and economic benefits—than those with lower levels of education. This raises ethical questions concerning unequal access to the latest innovations in medical technology, especially when medical research is publicly funded.

Jeon and Pohl highlight the importance of interactions between healthcare and labor markets and conclude with a set of policy options designed to reduce the economic burdens illness can impose on workers.

Read “Medical Innovation, Education, and Labor Market Outcomes of Cancer Patients” (working paper) by Sung-Hee Jeon and R. Vincent Pohl

Read “Medical Innovation and the Employment of Cancer Patients” (policy brief) by R. Vincent Pohl