pillsAccording to a recent study conducted by researchers at the American Cancer Society and published in the journal Cancer, the high ever-rising cost of cancer treatment is affecting prescription drug adherence.
The study, which used data from the National Health Interview Survey, found that patients with cancer were far more likely to stop taking their medication or switch it for financial reasons than patients with other diseases.
Rising deductibles, co-payments, co-insurance and tiered drug formularies all contribute to the increasing percentage of cancer care cost that patients must now pay for out of pocket. This can affect survivors’ overall wellbeing, lead to poorer treatment choices, have a negative effect on outcomes and cause higher medical expenses down the line, according to the study.
I would encourage patients to discuss their financial concerns with their care providers when making treatment decisions,” said Xuesong Han, Ph.D., strategic director, Health Policy and Healthcare Delivery Research at the American Cancer Society, and author on the study.

The study found that 31.6% of recently diagnosed survivors (diagnosed within the past 2 years) and 27.9% of patients previously diagnosed (2 years ago or longer) reported a change in their prescription due to financial reasons, compared to 21.4 % of people without a history of cancer.
The study found that this was more prevalent amongst the non-elderly, who typically depend on their employment and medical insurance cover than amongst the elderly who are more typically covered under Medicare.
Han said: “We were a little bit surprised that among elderly population, we did not observe such systematic differences in reporting changes in prescription use for financial reasons between cancer survivors and individuals without a cancer history. This is likely related to the near universal enrolment in Medicare,” he went on, “including prescription drug coverage for many, among the elderly population, and the fact that most elderly individuals without a history of cancer had two or more other chronic conditions, which may also require prescription drugs.”
The authors called for further studies that monitor cost-related medication adherence.

The Case in South Africa

The case in South Africa is not that dissimilar – except that there is no difference in age… there are many cancer patients who:

  1. Die because they do not get diagnosed early enough due to:
  1. Do not take the correct medications or get the right treatments due to:
  • An inability to get to clinics or hospitals due to financial & transport problems
  • Cultural traditions that make them eschew Western Medicine
  • Lack of finances to pay for medications/treatments
  • Shortage of medications in hospitals & clinics

The difference in South Africa is that there is no difference in age… due to the overall poverty in the country, not getting the required medication or treatment spas across all ages and although it is more prevalent in rural blacks, financial difficulties are by no means limited to this sector of the population.
Due to the high unemployment, high cost of living, ridiculously high medical aid rates and current lack of a “Medicaid” equivalent in South Africa, the financial stress of treating cancer is felt by around 80% of those with cancer or those who have Children with Cancer.

Governments across the globe need to do more to make cancer medication and cancer treatments more affordable to patients with cancer and cancer survivors!!


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