Monday, February 27, 2012

The High Cost of Cancer

When my doctor ordered a Neulasta shot for me after my first chemo treatment, he mentioned that it's the "drug you see advertised on TV."  Seriously.  Worse, a nurse later said the same thing.

Good to know.  My drug is well-advertised.  That is so very meaningful to me, because we all know that advertising is all about truth.

What nobody told me is that the drug is outrageously expensive.  Unbelievably expensive.  Mine cost a mere $2,000 a shot, but I have heard of others costing up to $7,000.  Truly, how can one shot possibly be worth 1/7 of the median household income in the United States?  (I used the Census Bureau's figure of $49,445.)

The stack of insurance papers and medical bills from my cancer treatment almost six years ago is about an inch thick.  When I was dealing with major stress over my health, I was also stressing over who paid what, how much it cost, and what I was responsible for.  This is a common scenario--a cancer patient and her family poring over papers late at night, worrying about healing, worrying about paying for it.

It's not bad enough that cancer can drain our energy, health, and spirit;  it also can drain our pocketbook. The Associated Press's Marilynn Machione wrote an excellent piece about the added burden of paying for cancer.  You might have seen it in your local paper.  If not, here it is from The Des Moines Register.

The high cost of drugs is honestly a disgrace.  The Affordable Care Act, which goes into full effect in 2014 is a step in the right direction, making it illegal for insurance companies to drop you once you're sick, to refuse you coverage once you have the Big C as a pre-existing condition, and to put caps on coverage.   It helps with drug costs for patients on Medicare.  We need much more, though.  We need to stop bickering and actually help people in need.


Sue in Italia/In the Land Of Cancer said...

I suppose the Neulasta is a bargain if you compare it to a hospital stay due to having an uncontrolled infection while immunosuppressed. I had to switch insurers several times while in treatment and the cost of this shot varied widely. The last insurance company required I pay 20% upfront but if I received the shot in the hospital instead of giving it to myself, it would be free to me (but cost the insurance company $12,000!!!!!)
But I had insurance..
what about people who don't? They have to spend down until they can get Medicaid.

Patricia Prijatel said...

The benefit of Neulasta is that it makes dose-dense chemo--which has been shown to be most effective for TNBC--possible. It seems like a bit of a wonderful drug. But why so expensive?

pattihatescancer said...

I was aghast when I saw the insurance statement following my first shot of Neulasta! Holy cow!! How could something so small include ingredients so expensive. Gold would've been cheaper. I used to call it my "golden shot". Something has got to change with this sort of expense. I agree with everything you said and am so thankful that there are steps being taken to improve the availability and affordability of medication and medical care in this country.

Patricia Prijatel said...

This comment from Satsuke, accidentally got deleted, so I am posting it myself. Pat


I'm sorry to hear that treatments in U.S are so expensive.

Here in Finland state offers a medical expence insurance which means that if you get cancer you only need to pay 3 euros deductible of Neulasta and other cancer-related medicines. So my golden shots cost me only 6 euros.

But day by day our well-functioning system is getting worse (because of the financial crisis in EU) - so maybe someday our costs rise as high as yours and everybody have to take a private insurance.

But in any case - it's interesting how much our states have differences.