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How Do I Deal With the Cost of New Myeloma Therapies?

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Published on January 21, 2016

Transcript | How Do I Deal With the Cost of New Myeloma Therapies?

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.         

Andrew Schorr:      

Okay, this is—last question, unless you pop one really quick at the question button, but otherwise we’re gonna go ahead with Katie’s question, which is a natural one,  “I’m terrified by the cost of the new drugs.  Cancer therapy is definitely expensive.”  She said her copays are already over $800 a month.  “What is the point of the wonderful drugs being approved if we can’t afford them?”  So what about cost?  How do we deal with that?  I know there are assistance programs. But as you’re making treatment decisions, this is the real world with people grappling with this.

Dr. Orlowski:     

Well, Katie, thanks for that question.  There’s no easy answer.  Actually tomorrow I’m presenting some research that we did in the context of a previous clinical trial looking at really, if you will, the financial toxicity and the economic burden that some of these new drugs are having on patients with multiple myeloma.  Some of this has to do with what type of insurance you have.  The intravenous medications, and those would be things like elotuzumab (Empliciti) and daratumamab (Darzalex) and also carfilzomib (Kyprolis), tend, especially for Medicare patients, to be covered better than are the oral medications like ixazomib (Ninlaro) and also panobinostat (Farydak). 

So you never like to make decisions about what treatment to take based on solely cost, but, unfortunately, as you pointed out, in the real world that’s the way that we sometimes have to make a decision.  But the good news, at least now, is that we have a few options that we can pick from.  And some of them are roughly equally effective. So in that case, you may want to pick the one which has less financial toxicity, if you will. 

The other thing that I think we need to look for in the future is eventually some of these drugs will become generic at which time the cost of the medications will go down.  And also as new medications become available, which hopefully are even more effective than the ones that we have right now, we may be able to get to the point where a shorter course of treatment will provide with equal efficacy. And if you’re on a drug for a shorter period, the cost should be lower.  But there is no easy answer to that difficult question. 

Andrew Schorr:                   

I just want to put in a plug for oncology social workers.  You have them at MD Anderson. They’re at many of the major centers.  They can help you with assistance programs, whether it’s copay assistance, other things that can help you, sometimes even just with travel to the center.  So look into that, ask for help, explain your financial situation.  For many of these programs, you do not have to be destitute.  I mean, there are people who are just hard-working people who need help trying to get the cancer care they need and deserve. 

Please remember the opinions expressed on Patient Power are not necessarily the views of our sponsors, contributors, partners or Patient Power. Our discussions are not a substitute for seeking medical advice or care from your own doctor. That’s how you’ll get care that’s most appropriate for you.

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