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Poor Women Seem to Be Skipping Breast Cancer Drugs
Date:5/18/2009

Theories vary as to why, but experts say consequence can be severe

MONDAY, May 18 (HealthDay News) -- In another sign of the challenges facing the health-care industry as it tries to serve the poor, researchers from North Carolina are reporting that nearly four in 10 poor women recovering from breast cancer do not take the drugs recommended to keep their cancer from returning.

Those who do not follow instructions to take these drugs, medications that block hormones, face a higher risk of dying, said study author Dr. Gretchen Kimmick.

The findings don't examine whether wealthier women are more likely to take the drugs, nor do they reveal trends over time.

Even so, they raise questions about poor women's lack of adherence to the drug regimens, including whether it's due to factors other than money because government-funded insurance would cover almost all the cost.

"The key right now is that we've got to figure out why they didn't get the standard treatment," said Kimmick, an associate professor in medical oncology at Duke University.

The study included 1,491 low-income women, who averaged 67 years old and were recovering from breast cancer, which had been diagnosed between 1998 and 2002.

The researchers found that 36 percent of the women failed to fill prescriptions for the recommended drugs to prevent the return of a type of breast cancer known as hormone receptor-positive. Women in the study had that type or an unknown type of breast cancer; two-thirds had undergone mastectomies.

Of those who did fill initial prescriptions, 40 percent stopped the drugs before the end of the year-long period.

The study, funded by the U.S. National Cancer Institute and the drug company AstraZeneca, appears in the May 18 online issue of the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Drugs such as the well-known medication tamoxifen, which AstraZeneca markets, are thought to h
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