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High Cost of Cancer Care

Posted 2/25/2016

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  We all know about the high cost, in dollars, of cancer care. Every year in January and February, I hear lots of unhappy stories about drug costs. Most of our insurance changes a bit every January 1st, and you can be sure that the change is never to lower cost for the patient. The deductibles go up; the co-pays go up; drugs may be rearranged in different tiers, so there is less coverage for a medication that you are already taking. As a small example, I have two shots each month that used to cost me nothing, have been costing me $9.57 every month for the last two years, and now cost me $109.57 each month. That is still a relatively low charge, considering the astronomical cost of the drug itself, but it is a big increase.

  I have had a number of conversations with women who are really distressed by the price tag of their cancer treatment. One woman who has just had breast cancer recur after 15 years was put on a new and hopeful treatment by her oncologist. They were both stunned when her out of pocket expense (and she has good insurance) is $2300/month. Clearly that is untenable, and she spoke with her doctor about other options. Another women with ovarian cancer had a new drug prescribed that would cost her $4000/month; she cannot possibly afford that, but is in a real bind, as her doctor strongly feels this is the most potentially helpful chemo available for her situation.

  The psychological and emotional toll of drug prices is finally being recognized. No one should have to bankrupt themselves and their families, take out a second mortgage, sell a car, or otherwise damage their lives and their futures to cover ridiculous prices. From the Wall Street Journal comes this article:

The High Cost of Cancer Care May Take Physical and Emotional Toll on Patients

Jonas de Souza has created a questionnaire to help doctors assess a patient’s risk of ‘financial toxicity’

Doctors who supervise cancer treatments have long been concerned about side effects, including fatigue, hair loss and depression. To that list, some now add the potentially harmful effects of costly treatments.

Researchers call it “financial toxicity.” The financial burdens that some patients suffer as a result of the cost of their treatments can cause damage to their physical and emotional well-being. Repercussions can include delaying or forgoing the treatment and only partly filling or even avoiding taking prescribed medication.

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