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Major Financial Stresses of Cancer Treatment

Posted 7/21/2015

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  Cancer is expensive. Almost everyone experiences some financial stress related to cancer treatment, and some people have terrible problems. The issues can range from higher expenses for childcare or uncovered medical costs (deductibles, co-pays, etc.) or gas to get to appointments to declaring bankruptcy due to overwhelming problems. What I had not heard before reading this is that there is a positive association between filing for bankruptcy and mortality risk. Wow.

  This sobering fact suggests that our medical system is truly out of control, and we need to quickly find some ways to reduce the impossible load faced by too many people. Here is the report from Cancer Today:

New Results About Cancer-Related Financial Problems

As many cancer patients experience, finances can be extremely overwhelming. A new study suggests the intense financial distress due to out-of-pocket costs related to cancer treatment is associated with increased risk of death by 79 percent,
according to findings presented at the 2015 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting, which had 30,000 attendees.
“We found a consistent, positive association between bankruptcy filing and higher mortality risk across individual cancers,”
says Aasthaa Bansal, from the University of Washington, who presented the research findings.
Previous studies have indicated well-established links between a diagnosis of cancer and financial toxicity. But these new findings are the first to link severe financial distress and increased early mortality in cancer patients.
As cancer patients struggle through their journey with necessary treatments and costs, oncologists and health care providers can take paramount roles. Leonard Saltz, chief, Gastrointestinal Oncology Services and Head, Colorectal Oncology at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center (MSK), presented at ASCO’s annual meeting emphasizing the need to reduce financial toxicity of precision medicines. As examples, he conveyed the costs of new PD-1 inhibitors and targeted therapies,
and proposed a series of provocative solutions with cost reductions. Saltz also highlighted the need for the FDA and Medicare to be able to consider value in approving new treatments and for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate directly with pharmaceutical companies.
Saltz also appeared on an episode of "60 Minutes" in June. Due to financial toxicity, Saltz said, “individual patients are going into bankruptcy trying to deal with these prices." He explained a new drug is priced at over $100,000 per year. "[R]emember that many of these drugs, most of them, don't replace everything else. They get added to it."


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