Cost of cancer drugs cause many to abandon treatment

Jun 2, 2014 | Health Insurance Billing

According to the National Cancer Institute, the United States spends an estimated $100 billion annually on cancer research and treatment. The rising cost of pharmaceuticals is making it increasingly difficult for care providers and patients to continue their battle against the disease.

Brand-name cancer drugs now cost patients roughly $10,000 a month. Bristol-Myers Squibb Co.'s Yervoy, the first drug to prolong survival in patients with advanced stages of the skin cancer, costs over $117,000 for a course of treatment. The IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that global spending on cancer medicines alone reached $91 billion last year, up from $37 billion ten years ago. 

Obviously, the average American citizen, even with an upper-middle class income, would struggle with this financial burden. Unfortunately, studies have shown that the higher the cost of the therapy, the more patients will drop out before finishing the course of the treatment. 

Murray Aitken, the executive director of the IMS Institute, told the Tennessean that patients who undergo the full course of treatment can prolong life anywhere from two to six months on average. "The willingness to pay for these breakthrough drugs is strong," Aitken said.

Patients that are prescribed older cancer drugs or generics often pay less, but families often push for the latest, most expensive therapies to extend the life of their loved one. And in a time when many insurers are demanding higher copayments and deductibles, these costs can quickly become unmanageable. 

Hospitals with an oncology department should be mindful of this trend and inform their accounts receivable services about the likelihood of bad debt in advance. By outsourcing medical claims management, in-house staff are better able to focus on high-value accounts that increase cash flow for the facility.