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Finances

Fighting cancer takes more than a strong will. It also takes an understanding of health insurance coverages and the out of pocket costs you will face. As people recover from cancer, they’re often confronted with a harsh financial reality. One of the biggest expenses related to cancer treatments is paying co-pays on drugs, particularly where pain relievers are concerned.

While doctors are pressured to reduce opioid prescriptions for non-cancer patients, the use of opioid painkillers remains vital to easing the suffering of cancer patients. Additionally, pharmaceutical companies offer payouts to doctors who prescribe their drugs, which has been found to be an effective incentive for prescribing certain opioids more frequently. In just a two year span from 2014 through 2016, there were 4.2 billion doses administered to patients. Overall, doctors received $50.3 million to prescribe these drugs across the two-year span of the study.

While the payments can’t be made to reimburse doctors for prescribing the company’s drugs, big pharma can offer cash incentives for discussing their products at seminars, conferences, and for engaging in consulting work. Getting a doctor to discuss a product may influence him to prescribe it to his own patients, which seems to be the trend. While the highly addictive nature of these drugs is known, it’s also difficult to deny their use with patients suffering from chronic or severe pain.

What does this mean for surviving cancer patients? It means the final cost of fighting cancer will likely include a sizable debt for painkillers, which they were administered throughout their treatment. Even if they were aware of these costs, patients may not realize how quickly the price rises from treatment to treatment. By the end of a hospital stay, a patient may owe thousands of dollars just to cover the cost of their opioid use.

Additionally, recovering from cancer may result in opioid addiction. In fact, it’s nearly impossible to use opioid painkillers throughout a long hospital stay and not develop an addiction. This means adding the cost of addiction treatment to their tab. While there aren’t many choices when it comes to fighting cancer, patients should be more aware of the financial consequences of receiving treatment. Instead of letting pharmaceutical companies influence them with big cash payments, doctors should be more aware of how opioid prescriptions will affect their patients in the long run.