Special Delivery: The Difficulties of Cost and Transportation of Cancer Medications

A woman with metastatic cancer explains how she found a copay assistance program and specialty pharmacy to help manage the cost of pricey medications, though not without a few bumps in the road.

Over the years since my metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, I have used a specialty pharmacy for various prescriptions. I have also been fortunate enough to qualify for the drug manufacturer’s copay assistance programs. One of my nurses early in my diagnosis made me aware of this service. If you haven’t already done so I would recommend checking with the drug manufacturer of your specific medication to see if they have a copay assistance program. My copay currently for the Lynparza (olaparib) I am taking runs me $250 a month. The medication itself retails for about $16,000 a month. With the copay assistance program, I have a zero-dollar copay.

Without this generous program I would be spending $3000 a year just for my medication. This doesn’t include my lab copays, oncologist visit copays, scan copays and any other associated costs. The list goes on and it all adds up rather quickly. Copays can easily become – and often do become – an extra stressor and financial burden for a patient with cancer. I am truly appreciative of the extra help when it comes to copays.

In my experience, these specialty pharmacies do not have a storefront location where you can just walk in and pick up your prescription. They require a monthly call to schedule delivery and go over general questions such as: Do you have any new side effects? Are you taking any new medications? Have you had any unplanned emergency room visits? How much of the medication do you still have on hand?

Once all the questions have been answered satisfactorily, the specialty pharmacy will schedule the delivery. They will ship the medication to a local store or to your home address. I’ve done this both ways and have had issues both ways. When I have had my prescription shipped to the local store, inevitably the employees at the store will misplace my meds. The store will tell me they didn’t receive my prescription when I know they have it. On one occasion I had to play detective to track down the whereabouts of my medication by calling the courier service to find out the name of the person who signed for my prescription. Next, I had to call the store to tell the pharmacy, “Yes, you do have my prescription and I have the name of the person who signed for it.” For me, having the medication shipped to the local pharmacy has generally been more trouble than it’s worth.

However, having my Lynparza shipped to my house is not always hassle free either. Sometimes a signature is required, and I’ve missed the delivery too many times and have risked having it sent back to the specialty pharmacy. When this happens it usually requires a call to the shipping company to track the package down and have it held at the shipping hub until I can go to the location to pick it up.

My most recent delivery of Lynparza arrived last week to my house. I knew it would be arriving at some point on Thursday, so I was expecting it, just not in the manner in which it appeared. That afternoon I was startled by a very loud thump against my front door. I got up and opened my door to see what was going on only to find the box with my prescription inside had been thrown in the fashion of a newspaper being porched. Does anyone still have newspapers delivered these days, let alone porched? All I know is my front gate had not been opened. The courier never even exited their vehicle. The driver slowed down just enough to lob that package over my fence and into my front door and then sped off around the corner. The driver’s aptitude test should have suggested a profession more suited to throwing things, such as a fishmonger at the Pike Place Market in Seattle or an Olympic medalist in package throwing or some other athletic endeavor. The package hit my front door with enough force to chip the paint off.

Despite the fact that the courier’s behavior and package delivery style was unacceptable, I am grateful to have my cancer controlling medication delivered to me monthly without the expense being an extra financial burden. I did call the courier company to report this. There are certain things thrown at you in life which you shouldn’t have to accept and special deliveries should be just that, special.

For more news on cancer updates, research and education, don’t forget to subscribe to CURE®’s newsletters here.