Original Report

The impact of loss of income and medicine costs on the financial burden for cancer patients in Australia


Background The cost of medicines may prove prohibitive for some cancer patients, potentially reducing the ability of a health system to fully deliver best practice care.

Objective To identify nonuse or nonpurchase of cancer-related medicines due to cost, and to describe the perceived financial burden of such medicines and associated patient characteristics.

Methods A cross-sectional pen-and-paper questionnaire was completed by oncology outpatients at 2 hospitals in Australia; 1 in regional New South Wales and 1 in metropolitan Victoria.

Results Almost 1 in 10 study participants had used over-the-counter medicines rather than prescribed medicines for cancer and obtained some but not all of the medicines prescribed in relation to their cancer. 63% of the sample reported some level of financial burden associated with obtaining these medicines, with 34% reporting a moderate or heavy financial burden. 11.8% reported using alternatives to prescribed medicines. People reporting reduced income after being diagnosed with cancer had almost 4 times the odds (OR, 3.73; 95% CI, 1.1-12.1) of reporting a heavy or extreme financial burden associated with prescribed medicines for cancer.

Limitations Study response rate, narrow survey population, self-reported survey used.

Conclusion This study identifies that a number of cancer patients, especially those with a reduced income after their diagnosis, experience financial burden associated with the purchase of medicines and that some go as far as to not use or to not purchase medicines. It seems likely that limiting the cost of medicines for cancer may improve patient ability to fully participate in the intended treatment.

Funding Cancer Council NSW, National Health and Medical Research Council, and Hunter Medical Research Institute, Australia

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