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Use of Charity Financial Assistance for Novel Oral Anticancer Agents.

Olszewski AJ, Zullo AR, Nering CR, Huynh JP. Use of Charity Financial Assistance for Novel Oral Anticancer Agents. Journal of oncology practice. 2018 Apr 1; 14(4):e221-e228.

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Novel oral targeted drugs are increasingly used for cancer therapy, but their extreme cost, often exceeding $10,000 per month, poses a significant barrier for patients and insurers alike, leading to the potential breakdown of traditional cost-sharing strategies. Insured patients' routine use of charity assistance to supplement their coverage would indicate a major deficiency in the current health care policies. By using data from a specialty pharmacy affiliated with an academic center (1,557 prescriptions dispensed between January 2014 and March 2017), we examined sources of payment for novel oral anticancer agents, distinguishing contributions from health insurance, patients, and from charitable assistance organizations. Thirty-six percent of 211 patients received charity assistance, including 47% of patients who were 65 years old or older. Charity sources covered 4% of total drug costs and 64% of out-of-pocket expenditures. The proportion of patients receiving financial assistance ranged from 7% when the upfront out-of-pocket requirement was less than $100 to 67% when it exceeded $1,000. When patients' out-of-pocket requirement exceeded $1,000, the median direct cash contribution paradoxically fell to $0 because of extensive use of charity support. Receipt of upfront charity assistance was associated with a longer time to filling the first prescription (median 9 v 7 days; P = .011) and with longer overall duration of therapy (median, 261 v 134 days; P = .014). These findings indicate that high out-of-pocket burden for expensive novel oral anticancer drugs leads to widespread use of charity support in the United States and that a significant financial barrier disparately affects older Medicare beneficiaries.

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