Multiple myeloma, a type of cancer affecting the bone marrow, will be diagnosed in an estimated 27,000 Americans this year. Advances in research are expanding treatment options and improving outcomes in multiple myeloma patients, but these new medications often come with a higher price point.
The expensive treatments for this disease have triggered alarming developments:
- 1 in 5 patients need to borrow money to fund their treatment
- 1 in 10 patients suspend treatment due to cost concerns
This burden from high out-of-pocket costs during treatment goes by the name “financial toxicity.” Some experts even refer to it as another adverse effect associated with disease treatment. Patients diagnosed with multiple myeloma are vulnerable to financial toxicity since treatment generally comes with a double whammy of being expensive and continues over a longer treatment period.
In a Lancet Haematology article, researchers note that blood cancer therapy costs have risen ten-fold in the past 15 years, with some medications priced at $10,000 or higher each month. After reviewing the treatments of 100 multiple myeloma patients, these researchers found that 36% of patients applied for financial assistance, even though half of these patients had incomes in excess of $100,000 annually. In addition, all of the patients in this study were insured.
Most patients (43%) used personal savings to cover treatment costs and another 21% borrowed money to fund their treatment. Unfortunately, 17% of patients experienced treatment delays due to cost barriers and 10% were unable to continue treatment at all as a result of cost.
As a specialty pharmacy that serves the needs of patients facing complex diseases (including cancer), BioPlus understands how cost concerns affect patients. We support our patients with a financial assistance department focused solely on coordinating resources related to patient foundation grants and co-pay assistance. In fact, so far this year alone we have assisted patients facing many different diseases in getting $20 million in grants and patient assistance. There are resources available so patients do not need to consider suspending treatment, even for costly therapies.
Press release. Multiple myeloma patients more vulnerable to ‘financial toxicity’ due to expensive, longer courses of treatments. Newswise September 15, 2015.