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Medco Study Finds Many Patients on Newer Oncology Treatments Are at Risk for Drug Interactions
Date:3/16/2012

e time.  Anywhere from 24 to 74 percent of patients were using medicines that may heighten toxicity of the other cancer drugs studied.

"Complex medication regimens can raise the odds of drug interactions, and we are finding that many drugs prescribed to cancer patients share  genetically-determined metabolism and transport pathways that may affect response to cancer treatment and  merit additional study," said Dr. Eric Stanek, vice president of research, MRI, and a co-author of the study.  "As we learn more about how to optimize treatment with cancer drugs, we are in a better position to share this knowledge with our patients and other clinicians through our Therapeutic Resource Centers, which can alert clinicians to these potential interactions, and so we can collaborate with them to seek therapeutic alternatives with less interaction potential whenever possible."

Oral cancer drugs that have emerged in the past decade to treat a variety of cancers have revolutionized treatment since they have better side effect profiles than traditional chemotherapy without compromising efficacy.  In some cases, they have transformed terminal diseases into chronic conditions that can be managed with medication.  The costs of this generation of cancer drugs can however exceed $100,000 for a year of treatment.  In 2010, specialty drugs to treat cancer, which include many of the treatments in the study, saw spending growth increases of 21 percent, driven by a 6.7 percent increase in utilization and an average increase of costs per day of treatment by 13.7 percent.

"By taking a holistic approach to caring for cancer patients and being diligent that they are managing their treatment regimen properly and getting the full benefit of the medications they are on, we can drive down both waste and cost, while helping to improve the health outcomes of the patient," said Subar.

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