The increasing number of self-administered oral cancer drugs may increase the likelihood that patients with cancer may delay, skip, or even forgo their prescription medications for financial reasons.
The rising cost of cancer drugs imposes a significant financial burden on cancer patients and their families. Even for those with sufficient insurance coverage, the cost of copays, coinsurance, deductibles, and tiered drug formularies have led to an increasing portion of the cancer drug being shifted to the patient as out-of-pocket expense. So, in addition to coping with treatment, side effects, and emotional trauma, patients must now worry about the cost of treatment.1
A new study by Zheng et al. (2017) finds that cancer survivors are more likely to change their prescription drug use for financial reasons than those without a cancer history.2 The study used the National Health Interview Survey responses from nearly 9,000 people with a history of cancer to more than 93,000 respondents without cancer. Measures of change in prescription drug use for financial reasons included:
- Skipping medications doses.
- Taking less medications.
- Delaying refill of prescription.
- Asking physician for lower cost medication.
- Buying prescription drugs from another country.
- Using alternative therapies.
Multivariate logistic regression analyses were controlled for demographic characteristics, number of comorbid conditions, and health insurance coverage.
Investigators found 31.6% of recently diagnosed and 27.9% of previously diagnosed cancer survivors reported change in prescription drug use for financial reasons compared with 21.4% of individuals without a cancer history. Nonelderly cancer survivors enrolled in high-deductible plans were more likely to ask their physician for lower cost medications. As the number of comorbid conditions increased, so did the likelihood of reporting a change in drug use.
The results of this study emphasize the need for healthcare policies that help cancer survivors manage the financial burden of prescription drugs.
How can we help our cancer patients?
We must be knowledgeable about patient resources and help our patients seek them out. Medical centers usually have patient advocates who may provide information. Encourage patients to explore local support groups or chapters of national agencies that might help with copays and prescription costs. Financial concerns may affect the outcome for our cancer patientsówe must explore all options. Do our colleagues have suggestions?
- American Cancer Society. People with Cancer History More Likely to Change Prescriptions to Save Money. 2017.
- Zheng Z, Han X, Guy GP, et al. Do cancer survivors change their prescription drug use for financial reasons? Findings from a nationally representative sample in the United States. Cancer. 2017 Feb 20.