Cancer Patients: Coping, Medication Adherence if under Financial Distress

S. Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS Assistant Professor of Medicine Duke Cancer Institute twitter: Interview with:
S. Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS
Assistant Professor of Medicine
Duke Cancer Institute
twitter: @yzafar What are the main findings of the study?

Dr. Zafar: We found that cost-related medication non-adherence was prevalent among cancer patients who sought financial assistance. Nearly half of participating cancer patients were non-adherent to medications as a result of cost. Patients  used different cost-coping strategies, for example, trying to find less expensive medications, borrowing money to pay for medications, and otherwise reducing spending. We found that non adherent participants were more likely to be young, unemployed, and without a prescription medication insurance plan. Were any of the findings unexpected?

Dr. Zafar: Our results suggested that nonadherent patients tended to alter their lifestyles in order to defray the costs of prescription medication. Non-adherence might serve as a signal for more pervasive difficulties with paying for health care. These findings weren’t unexpected as much as they described the extent to which patients were suffering as a result of treatment-related financial burden. What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Dr. Zafar: Dr. Zafar Patients aren’t talking to their doctors about their financial burden, but they are still at risk of experiencing financial distress. Clinicians should understand that the interventions we prescribe might cause more than physical toxicity — they might also result in financial toxicity. Not all patients need or want to discuss costs, but clinicians should be open to the idea of cost discussions, and more importantly, be prepared to point patients towards potential resources to help with their financial needs. What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Dr. Zafar: Now that we know cancer care can incur a financial burden for our patients, we should design interventions that can identify patients most at risk for experiencing it. We need to help patients identify appropriate resources and talk to their doctors about cost when making major treatment decisions.


Financial Distress, Use of Cost-Coping Strategies, and Adherence to Prescription Medication Among Patients With Cancer

Leah L. Zullig, Jeffrey M. Peppercorn, Deborah Schrag, Donald H. Taylor, Jr, Ying Lu, Gregory Samsa, Amy P. Abernethy, and S. Yousuf Zafar

Last Updated on March 28, 2014 by Marie Benz MD FAAD