Financial Toxicity Forces Cancer Patients to Change Prescription Drug Use

Adults with a cancer diagnosis were more likely to change their prescription drug use for financial reasons than patients without a history of cancer, according to results from a National Health Interview Survey conducted between 2011 and 2014.

The survey identified 8,931 patients previously diagnosed with cancer and 126,287 individuals without a history of cancer. Survey respondents were asked if financial considerations prompted them to make any of the following changes to prescribed medication use:

  • skipping medication doses
  • taking less medicine
  • delaying filling a prescription
  • asking a doctor for lower-cost medication
  • buying prescription drugs from another country
  • using alternative therapies

Of the cancer survivors, 31.6 percent recently diagnosed patients and 27.9 percent previously diagnosed patients reported that they had made a change to their drug use based on financial issues, compared with 21.4 percent of patients without a history of cancer (p<0.01).

Other factors that influenced survey participants’ drug use were demographics, comorbid conditions, combined effects of cancer and comorbid conditions, and insurance coverage. The patients who were most likely to ask their doctors for lower-cost medication were cancer survivors younger than 65 years who had high-deductible insurance plans, the researchers noted.

The use of self-reported data is a limitation of the study.

Source: Zheng Z, Han X, Guy G, et al. Do cancer survivors change their prescription drug use for financial reasons? Findings from a nationally representative sample in the United States. Cancer. 2017 February 20. [Epub ahead of print]