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Financial Toxicity Affecting Many Cancer Patients, Including Those With Mesothelioma

Financial toxicity is a phrase that is being used by many mesothelioma physicians, as well as those treating other cancer patients. It describes the difficult decisions that patients must make regarding the high costs of their treatment. Many are choosing to skip refilling expensive cancer medications or delay treatment as a result of high copays or out of pocket costs. In some cases, the decision is costing patients months and years off of their lives.

In the case of mesothelioma, most patients are male and over the age of 70, and this puts them right in the middle of the problem. According to Dr. Scott Ramsey, director of the Hutchinson Institute for Cancer Outcomes Research at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle, “We’re talking about huge numbers of patients. It’s an epidemic. And it’s not going away.” The issue goes beyond a question of insurance coverage, as most cancer patients in the United States are older than 65 and are on Medicare, which pays a high percentage of costs. Still, costly cancer drugs can cost patients as much as $10,000 per year out of pocket, which for those on Medicare generally represents 11% of their income and almost all of their available assets.  When a patient has more than one condition, as is often the case with mesothelioma, the problem becomes even greater.

Where patients diagnosed with some cancers can afford to delay their medication for a month or so, those who are diagnosed with mesothelioma are often looking at survival times of less than a year, and one month represents an enormous loss. Still with cancer costs imposing these types of hardships, some are even choosing to skip treatment entirely. This is particularly hard on loved ones who have to deal with both the loss of a family member and the knowledge that finances may have played a part in their hastened demise.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America point out that the problem is not limited to the costs of drugs. “Many factors contribute to financial hardship for cancer patients…. physician services, transportation expenses, and the inability to work, among other medical and non-medical factors, drive the cost burden on patients. We have also seen a rapid rise in the number of health plans with high deductibles for medicines.”

While some patients are turning to patient-assistance programs to help with the costs of medication, mesothelioma patients have a number of financial resources available to them, including the $30 billion asbestos bankruptcy trusts. For more information on accessing these funds, contact the Patient Advocates at Mesothelioma.net, or call us at 1-800-692-8608.


Terri Oppenheimer

Terri Oppenheimer is an independent writer, editor and proofreader. She graduated from the College of William and Mary with a degree in English. Her dreams of a writing career were diverted by a need to pay her bills. She spent a few years providing copy for a major retailer, then landed a lucrative career in advertising sales. With college bills for all three of her kids paid, she left corporate America for a return to her original goal of writing. She specializes in providing content for websites and finds tremendous enjoyment in the things she learns while doing her research. Her specific areas of interest include health and fitness, medical research, and the law.

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