A recent report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that as many as 5% of patients use alternative therapies, rather than those prescribed to them by their physician, to save money.1 Given the known detrimental effects that alternative therapies can have, particularly in oncology, finding ways to afford prescription medications is an important factor in patient survival.2

With breast cancer, patients frequently face economic barriers to obtaining medication, and the adverse events associated with many breast cancer medications can intensify the degree of economic burden in this patient group. 

“As more people live longer after breast cancer, the ongoing costs for breast cancer can continue to rise,” said Lorraine Dean, ScD, assistant professor of epidemiology at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, Baltimore, Maryland. “There are many reasons for the increasing costs in the United States, ranging from the ways in which pharmaceutical companies set prices for medicines, to the costs that hospitals pay for facilities and personnel, to the number of treatments required for cancer, to the way costs are shared by insurance and patients.”

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As both the disease incidence and the associated survival rates steadily rise, the cost of care is becoming a significant barrier faced by a high proportion of patients throughout the country.3,4

A qualitative study recently published in Cancer, however, identified 9 recommendations for mitigating the financial consequences of breast cancer, which were developed through interviews with long-term survivors of the disease.5 The authors, of which Dr Dean was the lead, suggested that the recommendations be “tested through policy and programmatic interventions.” 

Forty long-term disease survivors were invited to sit for an interview about possible tactics for reducing the costs associated with care; 27 individuals ultimately offered recommendations. The authors grouped the suggestions into 9 general themes:5