Lack of Rx drug coverage linked to financial decline in breast cancer survivors

March 30, 2014

Lack of substantial prescription drug coverage was found to be associated with financial decline in breast cancer survivors, according to an article published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Dr Jagsi

Lack of substantial prescription drug coverage was found to be associated with financial decline in breast cancer survivors, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

In a survey study of breast cancer survivors led by the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, researchers also found that 4 years after being treated for breast cancer, 25% of survivors say they are worse off financially, at least partly because of their treatment. In addition, 12% reported that they still have medical debt from their treatment

According to study author Reshma Jagsi, MD, associate professor of radiation oncology at the University of Michigan Medical School, the lack of substantial prescription drug coverage was also associated with the likelihood of reporting the experience of a significant privation, such as going without medication or having to move out of one’s home for financial reasons related to personal medical expenses.

“Many women with breast cancer are prescribed courses of endocrine therapy for years after diagnosis, so out-of-pocket pharmaceutical costs may be particularly important to consider in this setting,” Dr Jagsi said.

 

Financial decline varied significantly by race, with Spanish-speaking Latinas most likely to be impacted. Debt was reported more frequently in English-speaking Latinas and African-Americans, the study found.

Women in Detroit and Los Angeles who had been diagnosed with early stage breast cancer were surveyed, based on data obtained from the National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology and End Results population-based registry. Women were surveyed about 9 months after diagnosis and again about 4 years later, with 1,502 women responding to both surveys, according to a press release.

The surveys asked about patients’ perceptions of whether they were worse off financially since their diagnosis, and whether that has caused long-term hardships. For example, patients were asked if they had altered their medical care because of financial concerns, by skipping medication or by missing a doctor’s appointment or a mammogram. Other questions looked at broader challenges, such as going without health insurance, having utilities turned off, or moving out of their home.

African-Americans and English-speaking Latinas were more likely than whites to have experienced one of these issues. Other factors that made a woman more likely to experience these hardships include those under aged 65, household income under $50,000, part-time work at diagnosis, reduced work hours after diagnosis, lack of substantial prescription drug coverage, breast cancer recurrence, and undergoing chemotherapy.

According to the American Cancer Society, 235,030 Americans will be diagnosed with breast cancer this year and 40,430 will die from the disease.