Out-of-pocket burden for breast cancer treatment varies across US

Breast cancer chemotherapy costs vary widely across the United States, with patients taking on a substantial out-of-pocket burden, according to a new study published in the journal Cancer.

For the study, Sharon Giordano, MD, along with her colleagues at University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, used mostly private insurance claims to analyze chemotherapy costs for 14,643 women who had incident breast cancer diagnosed between 2008 and 2012, reports HealthDay. Total and out-of-pocket costs were calculated using all claims within 18 months of diagnosis and were adjusted for demographic and clinical factors.

Among patients who did and did not receive trastuzumab, a treatment for breast cancer marketed under the brand name Herceptin, the median insurance payments were $160,590 and $82,260, respectively, and the median out-of-pocket payments were $3,381 and $2,724, respectively, researchers found.

They also found 25 percent of patients who did not receive trastuzumab paid more than $4,712, and 10 percent of patients paid more than $7,041. Twenty-five percent of patients who did receive trastuzumab paid more than $5,604, and 10 percent paid more than $8,384, according to the study.

Among patients who were covered by high-deductible health plans, the study found the median out-of-pocket cost was $5,158, and 25 percent paid at least $8,128.

Dr. Giordano and her colleagues estimate that using equally effective but less expensive chemotherapy regimens could cut U.S. healthcare spending by $1 billion annually, reports HealthDay.


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