DEBU TRIPATHY, M.D.
FINANCIAL TOXICITY IS AN increasingly used term that describes the multiple negative consequences of medical care costs on the patient, whether it be for cancer or another serious illness.
It can force patients to cut back on groceries, give up nonessential but important activities such as vacations or gym memberships and even skip medication. Often, they must dip into their savings or retirement funds to help with out-of-pocket costs such as co-pays for medical appointments and prescriptions.
In worst-case scenarios, the added financial burden can disrupt physical and emotional health while increasing debt, possibly leading to bankruptcy — a surprisingly common problem for patients with cancer. Today, there are new mechanisms available to aid patients from several sources such as nonprofit organizations like CancerCare and the HealthWell Foundation, to name a few. Additionally, many pharmaceutical companies are continuing to develop and evolve patient financial assistance programs for anti-cancer agents that they produce. For very high priced drugs — Keytruda (pembrolizumab), an immunotherapy agent, retails for about $150,000 a year — companies can offer solutions to defray costs.
Much like the disease itself, navigating the resources associated with cancer can be frustrating. Many organizations have complex rules, long forms, require extensive documentation and information may be hard to access. Patients need advocates, social workers or navigators who hold expertise in these areas, have the connections to make it happen and show compassion for those who are trying to cope with a life-threatening disease.
And, even if all this is addressed, some people with cancer may still be left out of the equation. For instance, people without family support, immigrants or undocumented individuals with cultural or legal issues, younger patients who may not have insurance, such as adolescents and young adults.
The purpose of this special issue of CURE
® is to serve as a so-called golden key that unlocks doors of opportunities for patients, survivors and their families in dire need. Inside this issue lies pages of assistance of all shapes and sizes — help paying for medication, travel, wigs, scarves, exercise programs and much more.
With these resources, cost should not have to be the barrier standing between a patient and treatment that could really make a difference.
DEBU TRIPATHY, M.D.
Professor of Medicine
Chair, Department of Breast Medical Oncology
The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center