High Out-of-Pocket Costs May Cause Some to Forgo Cancer Treatment

Jan 4, 2018

A new study published this week in the Journal of Clinical Oncology has found that high out-of-pocket costs may be causing insured Americans with cancer to forego treatment when a wide range of oral cancer drugs are prescribed.

The study looked at a database of prescription claims of more than 38,000 people in the U.S. The aim was to see if insured cancer patients filled a new oral cancer medication prescription.

Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine found that 10 percent of patients failed to pick up their prescription when they were required to pay less than $10. But for those charged $100-500 a prescription, the rate jumped to 32 percent. And if out-of-pocket costs were more than $2000, nearly 50 percent of patients didn’t pick up their prescription.

The authors say the relationship between high out-of-pocket costs and prescription abandonment was consistent for all cancers, even when treatment would significantly extend life.

One in eight patients in the study had out-of-pocket costs higher than $2,000. As insurance trends toward higher deductible plans, researchers expect that ratio to increase.

West Virginia has the tenth highest rate of cancer incidence in the country, but is third highest for cancer-related deaths. 

Appalachia Health News is a project of West Virginia Public Broadcasting, with support from the Marshall Health, Charleston Area Medical Center and WVU Medicine.