Navigation Links
Recession Causing Cancer Patients to Quit Life-Extending Drugs
Date:8/5/2010

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Aug. 4 (HealthDay News) -- In 2009 and 2010, as the economic collapse shuddered across the globe, oncologists in California noticed a troubling trend: Three patients who had had serious tumors under control for as long as eight years reappeared in the clinic with massive cancer regrowth which, in one case, required emergency surgery.

In retrospect, this downturn in fortunes should have been predictable: The economic recession had forced the patients to discontinue a life-extending medication.

"In all three cases, the patients developed new symptoms and came in after having missed an appointment or two without us knowing that they had stopped the drug," said Dr. Katie Kelley, co-author of a letter-to-the-editor in the Aug. 5 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, which describes the cases. Kelley is also assistant clinical professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF).

And there have been other such cases, both at UCSF and around the nation, either of patients stopping medications altogether or rationing in the hopes of making precious supplies last longer.

"Certainly we've seen an increase in affordability concerns," said Stephen Finan, senior policy director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network in Washington, D.C. "Very definitely we've seen an upward trend in the last couple of years of people struggling with deductibles and cost sharing."

"There has been some evidence to suggest that it is happening on a wider scale," added Robert Freeman, professor of pharmaceutical sciences at Texas A&M Health Science Center's Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy. "This not only happens when the economy turns down, but if Medicare programs run into budgetary problems and become restrictive or if private co-payments go up."

All three patients described in the journal article had been taking Gleevec (imatinib) for gastrointestinal stromal tumors (GIST). Gleevec is considered by many to be a wonder drug, since it appears to be close to a cure for many people with a form of blood cancer known as chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML). The drug has also extended the average survival of GIST patients from just a few months to an average of five years, the UCSF team noted.

However, Gleevec costs patients close to $5,000 per month. That's out of the reach of most Americans without health insurance, and it can make Gleevec tough to afford even when insurance is available.

All three patients described in the journal had been part of the trial that led to Gleevec's approval for GIST and had been taking the drug since 2001. And all had suffered economic reversals, including job losses, that forced them to stop treatment. As a result, all experienced recurrences, often within a matter of months.

"These were people who previously had had their drugs covered and all of a sudden the greater-than-$5,000-a-month cost became really prohibitive," said Kelley. "It's completely understandable."

Fortunately, despite the massive regrowth of their cancers, none of the patients ended up with "major consequences" from their involuntary drug hiatus, said Kelley, though that isn't uncommon.

"If a medication is controlling a chronic condition then the chronic condition is going to worsen over time. It may not be immediate but you're going to have the person's condition essentially return to the point it was before it started therapy," Freeman said. "You will see downstream costs go up as a result of that because the person will become sicker."

Doctors did find a way to get the three UCSF patients back on their medications -- at least temporarily -- and some of these options are available to others as well.

If a patient has a large co-pay, or no insurance at all, the "main resource to offer is connection with patient assistance programs [run by pharmaceutical companies]," Kelley said.

"There are some foundations and charities that do specifically help people who are struggling with their cost-sharing on prescription drugs or other cost-sharing problems, and some of the pharmaceutical companies have assistance programs where they will provide drugs at lower or no cost for patients in need," added Finan. "Those are the only real options at this point for people who are pressed to afford their prescription costs."

Although "getting drugs for two months isn't ideal for patients who still don't have insurance at the end of that time, it's a starting point," Kelley said.

In the future, elements of President Obama's Affordable Care Act should help protect people in this situation, such as the patient with GIST described here who was refused coverage as a result of a pre-existing condition.

"Eventually rules will be set and that practice will be prohibited," Freeman said.

More information

There's a searchable database of patient assistance programs at RxAssist.

SOURCES: Katie Kelley, M.D., assistant clinical professor, medicine, division of hematology/oncology, University of California San Francisco; Stephen Finan, senior policy director, American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network; Robert Freeman, Ph.D., professor, pharmaceutical sciences, Texas A&M Health Science Center Irma Lerma Rangel College of Pharmacy; Aug. 5, 2010, New England Journal of Medicine


'/>"/>
Copyright©2010 ScoutNews,LLC.
All rights reserved  

Related medicine news :

1. Is the current recession compromising hospital quality?
2. Professional Web Design Agency Discovers Winning Web Development Formula for Beating the Recession.
3. Brooklyn Fitness Boot Camp Fights Recession, Improves Lives and Supports Community with "Service First: Fitness at Any Price" Business Model
4. Recession May Mean Fewer Nips & Tucks
5. Recession Buster for Small Businesses: Website Design and Search Engine Optimization on a Shoestring
6. Have You Recession-Proofed Your Marriage?
7. Recession Proof Your Valentine's Day With InnerRewards Spa & Salon Deals
8. Study reveals a secret to the success of notorious, disease-causing microbes
9. New way to conquer disease-causing nematodes in flies has implications for human diseases
10. More Cancer-Causing Chemicals in U.S. Cigarettes
11. Laser Used to Blast Away Cells Causing Irregular Heartbeat
Post Your Comments:
*Name:
*Comment:
*Email:
Related Image:
Recession Causing Cancer Patients to Quit Life-Extending Drugs
(Date:6/27/2016)... (PRWEB) , ... June 27, ... ... in the patient payment industry today announced its strategic partnership with Connance, ... system workflows. , The two companies’ proven, proprietary technology combine to provide ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... ... ... On June 10-11, 2016, A Forever Recovery, a holistic treatment center for ... Table in Battle Creek, MI, where the rehabilitation facility is located. This annual celebration ... world’s leading providers of cereal and other breakfast foods. Its residents often refer to ...
(Date:6/26/2016)... Michigan (PRWEB) , ... June 26, 2016 , ... ... to fertility once they have been diagnosed with endometriosis. These women need a ... they also require a comprehensive approach that can help for preservation of fertility ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... , ... June 25, 2016 , ... "With 30 hand-drawn ... specific project," said Christina Austin - CEO of Pixel Film Studios. , ProHand ... all within Final Cut Pro X . Simply select a ProHand generator and ...
(Date:6/25/2016)... , ... June 25, 2016 , ... On Friday, June ... a Bronze Wellness at Work award to iHire in recognition of their exemplary accomplishments ... of the 7th annual Maryland Workplace Health & Wellness Symposium at the BWI Marriott ...
Breaking Medicine News(10 mins):
(Date:6/26/2016)... , June 26, 2016 ... care operating models within the health care industry is ... financial efficiency , Deloitte offers a suite of ... business issues impacting efficient cost optimization: labor resource analysis, ... These services facilitate better outcomes and better economics ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... DUBLIN , June 24, 2016 ... and Markets has announced the addition of the ... their offering. ... products and provides an updated review, including its applications ... covering the total market, which includes three main industries: ...
(Date:6/24/2016)... Research and Markets has announced the ... Tests" report to their offering. ... The World Market for Companion Diagnostics covers the ... analysis in the report includes the following: ... Kits) by Region (N. America, EU, ROW), 2015-2020 , ...
Breaking Medicine Technology: