The high cost of medication is causing breast cancer survivors to forego follow-up treatment.
For many breast cancer survivors, taking medication is an important part of their follow-up treatment, helping curb the production of the hormone estrogen or preventing the hormone from attaching to new cancer cells. But a new study from researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston has found as many as a third of women wind up going off their medications, despite the long-term benefits for their health. Why? The out-of-pocket costs are simply too high.
For their study, the researchers reviewed the medical records of nearly 8,700 women enrolled in Medicare Part D prescription drug plans between 2007 and 2009, comparing the number of women who continued to take their prescribed medications with the out-of-pocket costs associated with their therapies. What they found was that about 37% - more than a third - did not fill their medications routinely during the study period, with compliance the lowest among those whose out-of-pocket costs exceeded $10 per prescription. Compliance was also lower for single women living in poor communities compared to women who were married or living in more affluent neighborhoods. Rates of adherence were similar for black, white and Hispanic patients, the study authors noted.
Without these medications, many breast cancer survivors may be more prone to cancer recurrence or experience higher rates of cancer-related mortality, the researchers noted. The findings are especially important now that the Affordable Care Act (ACA) faces an uncertain future. The ACA offers subsidies that cover many out-of-pocket prescription costs, which means women who depend on ACA and Medicare may be more likely to face greater out-of-pocket costs in the near future.