“Spending on prescription drugs to treat cancer has been increasing
in the United States, and many newer cancer drugs have annual price
tags of $100,000 or more,” study co-author K. Robin Yabroff told
Reuters Health in an email.
Patient cost-sharing has also been increasing in recent years, she
noted. And there have been significant changes in financial hardship
due to costs of prescription drugs between 2011 and 2015, said
Yabroff, who is a researcher with the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services in Washington, DC.
Multiple studies have shown that cancer survivors are more likely to
have high out-of-pocket spending for health care and be worried
about their medical bills than those without a cancer history, said
“In this study, we wanted to examine changes in financial access to
prescription drugs over time and whether any changes differed for
cancer survivors,” she said.
As reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, online
August 24, Yabroff’s team analyzed data on nearly 200,000 adults who
participated in the National Health Interview Survey.
In 2010, almost 14% of cancer survivors ages 18 to 64 said they had
forgone needed prescription drugs because of cost during the
previous 12 months, compared to 11% of their peers without a history
By 2015, those rates were down for both groups but were still higher
for cancer survivors, at roughly 9%, than for those without a cancer
history, at just under 7%.
In each of the six years studied, cancer survivors were more likely
to report forgoing prescription drugs in the past year because of
cost, Yabroff said.
Cancer survivors were also more likely to be older and have more
chronic conditions than those without a cancer history, and both of
these characteristics may be associated with greater need for
prescription drugs, said Yabroff.
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But even after the researchers took age and chronic medical problems
into account, cancer survivors were still more likely to report
limited financial access to prescription medications, she said.
For adults 65 or older, a cancer history did not seem to affect
financial access to medications. The vast majority of U.S. adults in
that age group, however, are insured with Medicare, which may
minimize barriers to financial access to prescription drugs, Yabroff
Going forward, Yabroff said, it will be important to study why
cancer survivors are more likely to forgo prescription drugs because
of cost and whether skipping those drugs is associated with more
emergency room visits or potentially avoidable hospitalizations.
“A number of factors will likely play a role in financial access to
prescription drugs in the future, including economic trends, the
price of prescription drugs, level of patient cost-sharing, and type
of health insurance coverage. It will be important to continue to
evaluate trends in financial access to prescription drugs,” she
J Natl Cancer Inst 2017.
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