Approximately 10% of Medicare beneficiaries do not comply with their prescribed medication regimen because they simply cannot afford it, researchers from Harvard Medical School reported in the Journal of Cancer Survivorship. They added that elderly Medicare patients, whether or not they are being treated for cancer, commonly skip taking a pill so that they can last longer, or forgo filling a prescription completely because it is just too expensive.
The authors believe that their findings suggest that seniors with cancer or those who survived it do not face greater medical costs than other patients.
The rise in medication costs has occurred in parallel with an aging population, leading to greater financial burdens for the patient. Cancer costs have risen considerably. Patients being treated for cancer face considerable out-of-pocket expenses while they are being diagnosed, treated and receiving follow-up care. Comorbidities are common among cancer survivors, who may be taking medication for diabetes, hyperlipidemia, hypertension or osteoporosis.
The researchers set out to understand what medication issues cancer patients have to face. They gathered data from the 2005 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and Medicare claims from 2005.
They looked at reasons why patients may not stick to their prescribed drug regimen, whether they spent less on basic needs, or even did without to cover their out-of-pocket medical expenses. They analyzed both cancer survivors and non-cancer sufferers.
Dr. Larissa Nekhlyudov and colleagues found that the rate of cost-related non-adherence among those without cancer was 11%, compared to 10% for cancer survivors - not a statistically significant difference.
6% of cancer survivors said they spend less on food, heating and other basic needs in order to be able to pay for their medication, compared to 9% of individuals without cancer. More than half of all Medicare beneficiaries were involved in some kind of cost-saving strategy, such as buying generic drugs, asking for free samples and shopping around from pharmacy-to-pharmacy for the cheapest prices.
Dr. Nekhlyudov concluded:
"As the number of cancer survivors continues to increase and get older, the findings of our study enhance our understanding of the potential barriers to effective treatment of their non-cancer co-morbidities."
Written by Christian Nordqvist