University of California San Francisco
Helen Diller Family Comprehensive Cancer Center

Cancer Drug Cost May Be Unbearable, Even for Insured

By Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe | February 10, 2009

Cancer doctors may be writing the prescriptions for new generations of drugs, but some financially hard-pressed patients are not having those prescriptions filled.

The trend is worsening, according to Marilyn Stebbins, PharmD, health sciences clinical professor of pharmacy at UCSF. Stebbins, the pharmacy utilization director for Mercy Medical Group at the CHW Medical Foundation in Sacramento, has for 13 years been helping uninsured and underinsured patients find and navigate programs that can fill the financial gap.

"Over the past three years, our referrals from oncology have increased dramatically due to the high cost of many of these drugs," she says.

It is not unusual for pharmacy bills to top $50,000 per year for cancer patients. "There are people who will just not start therapy until they come to see us to find out if there is any assistance," Stebbins says. Stebbins is not only referring to the most impoverished cancer sufferers, although they are clearly affected. She also helps many people who already have health insurance.

Read more at Jeffrey Norris, UCSF Science Cafe