Patients With Cancer History More Likely to Change Prescriptions to Save Money

Key Points

  • 31.6% of recently diagnosed and 27.9% of previously diagnosed cancer survivors reported any 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 doctor for lower-cost medication (32.2% vs 22.5%). 
  • As the number of comorbid conditions increased, so did the likelihood of reporting any change in prescription drug use.

A new study led by American Cancer Society investigators found that cancer survivors are more likely to change their prescription drug use for financial reasons than those without a cancer history. These findings were published by Zheng et al in Cancer.

The rising cost of cancer drugs imposes a significant financial burden on patients with cancer and their families. The direct medical cost of a new cancer medication per patient can routinely exceed $100,000 annually. Rising deductibles, copayments, coinsurance, and tiered drug formularies have led to an increasing portion of cancer drug cost being is shifted to the patient as out-of-pocket costs. The increasing number of expensive, patient-administrated, oral antineoplastic agents may increase the likelihood that patients with cancer may delay, skip, or even forgo their prescription medications for financial reasons.

Study Findings

Investigators used the National Health Interview Survey to compare responses from nearly 9,000 people with a history of cancer to more than 93,000 respondents without a cancer history. 

They found 31.6% of recently diagnosed and 27.9% of previously diagnosed cancer survivors reported any 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 doctor for lower-cost medication (32.2% vs 22.5%). As the number of comorbid conditions increased, so did the likelihood of reporting any change in prescription drug use. Changes in prescriptions were particularly evident in the nonelderly population, likely because of the near universal enrollment in Medicare, which may reduce the impact of medication cost on changes in prescriptions.

The authors concluded that health-care policies that help cancer survivors address the financial burden of prescription drugs should target those who have multiple comorbid conditions and high-deductible health plans.

The content in this post has not been reviewed by the American Society of Clinical Oncology, Inc. (ASCO®) and does not necessarily reflect the ideas and opinions of ASCO®.


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