High prescription costs keep cancer patients from treatment: 4 findings

Oral cancer patients with higher out-of-pocket costs for medication are less likely to fill their prescriptions, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers at the Philadelphia-based University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine examined pharmacy data from 2014 and 2015 and analyzed the prescription filling habits of 38,000 Medicare and privately-insured patients.

Researchers then organized the data by whether patients failed to fill their prescription for oral cancer medication at all (claim reversal), filled their prescription within 90 days (delayed initiation) and whether patients failed to fill their prescription within 90 days (abandonment).

Here are four findings from the study:

1. Claim reversal rates ran from 13 percent to 67 percent among a final sample of all groups and increased with higher out-of-pocket cost brackets.

2. Prescription abandonment rates averaged 18 percent, but also increased when researchers looked at higher out-of-pocket costs. Abandonment rates reached 10 percent for $10 copays, 32 percent for patients paying between $100 and $500 and rose to nearly 50 percent for patients paying $2,000 for their medications.

3. Patients with higher copays were also more likely to delay initiation for their prescriptions. Three percent of patients paying $10 copays delayed filling prescriptions and 18 percent of patients delayed when facing $2,000 copays.

4. The study shows the importance of discussing financial barriers with patients during conversations about treatment options, Jalpa A. Doshi, PhD, professor of General Internal Medicine at Perelman School of Medicine, said in a statement. "Patients may not be aware of how expensive their prescriptions will be, and physicians may not realize that a patient has opted not to fill the prescription."

More articles on patient engagement: 
Medical jargon may harm patient-provider communication: 5 findings
Can participating in Facebook groups improve patient satisfaction? 4 findings
FDA opens nominations for patient engagement collaborative

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