Patients often skip, delay or ration cancer treatments due to high drug costs: 5 takeaways

Hundreds of thousands of Americans with cancer delay filling prescriptions, cut pills in half or skip drug treatment altogether due to the exorbitant cost of new cancer drugs, reports Kaiser Health News.

Here are five takeaways.

1. In the last five years, the list prices for oral cancer treatments doubled. The average price for a one-day supply of the drugs increased from $20 in 2011 to $40 in 2016, according to data from Express Scripts. The price of six of the 39 cancer drugs available in 2010 doubled or tripled by 2016. One drug quadrupled in price, while another increased by a factor of eight, according to Express Scripts.

2. One fourth of all cancer patients did not fill a prescription due to cost, and 20 percent filled only part of a prescription or took a smaller dose than recommended, according to a 2013 study in The Oncologist. With more than 1.6 million Americans expected to be diagnosed with cancer this year, that percentage means 168,000 to 405,000 Americans ration prescriptions, according to KHN.

3. Medicare pays for a majority of cancer treatments since 59 percent of cancer patients in the U.S. are older than 65, according to a June 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. While Medicare covers a large portion of the costs, it doesn't set an upper limit on how much patients pay out-of-pocket, and copays can often reach $10,000 a year, according to KHN.

4. Cancer patients receiving Medicare spend about 11 percent of their income on treatment, and those without supplemental insurance to pay for treatment not covered by Medicare spend 23 percent of their income, according to a recent study in JAMA Oncology.

5. Researchers examined the financial hardships of 284 colorectal cancer patients, the majority of whom were insured, during a March 2012 study in the Journal of Clinical Oncology. Thirty-eight percent of the patients experienced one or more financial hardship — like having to sell their home or losing more then 20 percent of their income — as a result of treatment. Seventeen percent borrowed money from loved their loved ones at an average of more than $14,000 to pay for treatments, and 23 percent were in debt just under two years after being diagnosed. The patients reported average debt of $26,860, according to the study.

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