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Mohammed W. Rahman, Niti U. Trivedi, Peter B. Bach, and Aaron P. Mitchell

Background: Personal payments from the pharmaceutical industry to US physicians are common and are associated with changes in physicians’ clinical practice and interpretation of clinical trial results. We assessed temporal trends in industry payments to oncologists, with particular emphasis on payments to authors of oncology clinical practice guideline and on payments related to immunotherapy drugs. Methods: We included US physicians with active National Plan and Provider Enumeration System records and demographic data available in the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services Physician Compare system who had a specialty type of medical oncology or general internal medicine. Medical oncologists serving on NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology (NCCN Guidelines) Panels were identified manually. Industry payments, and the subset associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, were identified in Open Payments, the federal repository of all transactions of financial value from industry to physicians and teaching hospitals, from 2014 to 2017. Results: There were 13,087 medical oncologists and 85,640 internists who received payments. The mean, annual, per-physician value of payments to oncologists increased from $3,811 in 2014 to $5,854 in 2017, and from $444 to $450 for internists; the median payment increased from $152 to $199 for oncologists and remained at $0 for internists. Oncologists who served on NCCN Guidelines Panels received a greater value in payments and experienced a greater relative increase: mean payments increased from $10,820 in 2014 to $18,977 in 2017, and median payments increased from $500 to $1,366. Among companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs, mean annual per-oncologist payments associated with PD-1/PD-L1 drugs increased from $28 to $773. Total per-oncologist payments from companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs experienced a 165% increase from 2014 to 2017, compared with a 31% increase among similar companies not marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. Conclusions: Pharmaceutical industry payments increased for US oncologists from 2014 to 2017 more than for general internists. The increase was greater among oncologists contributing to clinical practice guidelines and among pharmaceutical companies marketing PD-1/PD-L1 drugs. The increasing flow of money from industry to US oncologists supports ongoing concern regarding commercial interests in guideline development and clinical decision-making.

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Pranammya Dey, Angela K. Green, Michael Haddadin, Peter B. Bach, and Aaron P. Mitchell

Background: NCCN produces highly influential disease-specific oncology clinical practice guidelines. Because the number of women in academic oncology has increased, we assessed whether the composition of NCCN Guidelines Panels reflected this trend. Methods: Using historical guidelines requested from NCCN, we investigated time trends for female representation on 21 NCCN Guidelines Panels and analyzed the trends for female-predominant cancers (breast, ovarian, uterine, and cervical) compared with all cancers. Results: From 2013 to 2019, there was an increase from 123 women of 541 total panelists (22.7%) to 175 women of 542 panelists (32.3%). Within the 4 female-predominant cancers, the increase was more rapid: from 30 of 101 total panelists (29.7%) to 66 of 118 panelists (56.4%). Excluding female-predominant cancers, increases were minimal. Conclusions: There could be multiple explanations for these differing trends, including the possibility of more rapid increases in the underlying pool of female physician-scientists in female-predominant specialties or more efforts to increase the representation of women in decisions about the standard of care in cancers predominantly affecting women.

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Aaron P. Mitchell, Sara M. Tabatabai, Pranammya Dey, Jennifer A. Ohn, Michael A. Curry, and Peter B. Bach

Background: The cost of cancer treatment has increased significantly in recent decades, but it is unclear whether these costs have been associated with commensurate improvement in clinical value. This study aimed to assess the association between the cost of cancer treatment and 4 of the 5 NCCN Evidence Blocks (EB) measures of clinical value: efficacy of regimen/agent, safety of regimen/agent, quality of evidence, and consistency of evidence. Methods: This is a cross-sectional, observational study. We obtained NCCN EB ratings for all recommended, first-line, and/or maintenance treatments for the 30 most prevalent cancers in the United States and calculated direct pharmacologic treatment costs (drug acquisition, administration fees, guideline-concordant supportive care medications) using Medicare reimbursement rates in January 2019. We used generalized estimating equations to estimate the association between NCCN EB measures and treatment cost with clustering at the level of the treatment indication. Results: A total of 1,386 treatments were included. Among time-unlimited treatments (those administered on an ongoing basis without a predetermined stopping point), monthly cost was positively associated with efficacy ($3,036; 95% CI, $1,782 to $4,289) and quality of evidence ($1,509; 95% CI, $171 to $2,847) but negatively associated with safety (–$1,470; 95% CI, –$2,790 to –$151) and consistency of evidence (–$2,003; 95% CI, –$3,420 to –$586). Among time-limited treatments (those administered for a predetermined interval or number of cycles), no NCCN EB measure was significantly associated with treatment cost. Conclusions: An association between NCCN EB measures and treatment cost was inconsistent, and the magnitude of the association was small compared with the degree of cost variation among treatments with the same EB scores. The clinical value of cancer treatments does not seem to be a primary determinant of treatment cost.