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Financial SupportIssue Introductions

Introduction: Third Annual Guide to Patient Financial Support Programs for Cancer Medicines

This Third Annual Guide is provided to you by CONQUER magazine, to help you and your providers, especially your nurse navigator, become more aware of the many financial support services that may be able to help you to receive the best treatment you need and relieve you of the associated financial worries.
Lillie D. Shockney, RN, BS, MAS, ONN-CG
26-year cancer survivor
University Distinguished Service Professor of Breast Cancer; Director, Cancer Survivorship Programs at the Sidney Kimmel Cancer Center at Johns Hopkins

Many patients are embarrassed to discuss the cost of their cancer medications with their doctor, even if they have a difficult time paying for them. And yet the cost of cancer drugs continues to rise, leading some patients and families to bankruptcy. Financial toxicity, a non-physical side effect of cancer treatment, can affect anyone who is facing a life-threatening cancer, not only people without health insurance or with low income.

The cost of cancer treatment can easily reach $100,000, $200,000, or more annually, and many insurance companies expect patients to pay a large part of that cost, especially those with high deductibles or high insurance premiums, or they simply don’t offer coverage for some expensive cancer drugs.

Dealing with a cancer diagnosis is hard enough. Don’t hesitate to discuss your financial situation with your doctor or care team, even if they don’t ask you about it. Although some oncology practices have financial counselors who meet with every patient, many patients are not as lucky and are unaware of financial help that may be available to them. You should therefore get familiar with this Guide to learn of the many financial programs and other support services that pharmaceutical companies offer to patients who are prescribed their drugs.

Specifically, many drug companies’ programs offer their cancer drugs at a much-reduced cost, or at no cost, for patients who meet certain financial criteria. Some companies have no income requirements and provide their drugs for free to patients who meet their eligibility criteria, such as being a US resident, having insurance, and having a prescription for their medication for an FDA-approved indication. Many nonprofit organizations also offer financial help, as is discussed in this Guide.

This Third Annual Guide is designed to help you and your providers become aware of the many financial programs that may help you to get the best treatment you need, at a cost you can afford. The Guide is organized by cancer type, listing the drugs prescribed for each type, which makes it easy to find the medication you are using. Each section includes information about financial assistance programs specific to that cancer. So, look for the drug or drugs you are using to find out what support programs are available from the drug company or from nonprofit organizations, and then see if they can help you to pay for your medications.

Whether you are insured, underinsured, or uninsured, these financial assistance programs are designed to help you pay for your medications, as well as other expenses related to cancer treatment, such as travel to a cancer clinic or hospital, hotel stays during treatment, or even a wig. Become familiar with these options so you can get the treatment you need to achieve the best result possible for your diagnosis.

If you are not sure how to use this information, ask your navigator for help. Take this Guide with you to your next appointment, and ask your navigator or care team how to apply for financial help.

Last modified: August 5, 2019

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