Many cancer survivors can’t afford to take all their medications the way they were prescribed, which can lead them to make changes that include skipping doses or delaying filling prescriptions. This problem appears to mainly affect adults younger than age 65, according to a study by researchers from the American Cancer Society, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the National Institutes of Health.
The study was published February 20 in Cancer, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Cancer Society. Researchers used data from the National Health Interview Survey to find out how finances led people to change their prescription drug use. The survey included about 135,000 people, including almost 9,000 cancer survivors.
Among cancer survivors ages 18- 64, about 32% of those diagnosed within the past two years and about 28% of those diagnosed at least two years ago reported changing their prescription drug use for financial reasons. This compared with only about 21% of those without a history of cancer. “Specifically, non-elderly cancer survivors were more likely to skip medication, delay filling a prescription, ask their doctor for lower-cost medication, and use alternative therapies for financial reasons compared with non-elderly individuals without a cancer history,” said the American Cancer Society’s Ahmedin Jemal, DVM, PhD, a senior author of the paper.
For those ages 65 and older, changes in prescription drug use for financial reasons were generally similar between cancer survivors and those with no cancer history.
According to the study authors, differences between age groups are likely due to several factors:
Jemal says people who are having trouble paying for their medication should talk to their health care team about alternatives. He says sometimes lower cost options are available that provide a benefit as good as more expensive drugs.
If you or someone you know has cancer and needs help, call the American Cancer Society at 1-800-227-2345.
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Do Cancer Survivors Change Their Prescription Drug Use for Financial Reasons? Findings From a Nationally Representative Sample in the United States. Published February 20,
in Cancer. First author Zhiyuan Zheng,
, American Cancer Society, Atlanta, Ga.
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