Helping Poorer Patients Pay for Prostate Cancer Meds Keeps Them on Treatment

Helping Poorer Patients Pay for Prostate Cancer Meds Keeps Them on Treatment
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Key Takeaways

  • Newer oral medications to treat prostate cancer are costly, which may limit access to them

  • Men treated at hospitals that are part of a federal discount drug program were more likely than others to take their meds

  • These hospitals may have resources to help men follow their prescriptions, researchers say

MONDAY, March 25, 2024 (HealthDay News) — Men with prostate cancer treated at hospitals participating in a special drug-pricing program were more likely to stick to their therapy than patients elsewhere, new research reveals.

The federal 340B Drug Program requires the pharmaceutical industry to discount drugs sold to participating hospitals that serve a large number of Medicare and Medicaid patients. Medicare is federal health insurance for the elderly, while Medicaid serves people who are poor or disabled.

340B aims to help hospitals spread scarce resources to more patients and provide a broader array of services.

"In the field of advanced prostate cancer, there's been a paradigm shift to using newer oral treatments," explained study first author Dr. Kassem Faraj, a urologic oncology fellow at Michigan Medicine, who added that these drugs are costly, which can limit access. 

His team wanted to see whether the 340B is addressing that. 

For the new study, the researchers looked at more than 3,300 Medicare patients diagnosed with advanced prostate cancer. They identified more than 2,200 men treated at hospitals participating in the program and 1,100 treated at non-participating hospitals.

They used a measure called the social vulnerability index, which characterizes economic, racial and household characteristics of a community, to determine whether a hospital was in a socially vulnerable neighborhood or not.

They found that patients in more vulnerable areas were less likely to take the oral medications -- whether they were at a 340B hospital or a non-participating hospital.

But the study found that patients treated at non-participating hospitals were less likely to continue treatment. Adherence remained flat, regardless of social vulnerability at 340B hospitals. 

"While 340B participation didn't increase the number of patients using this therapy, it was associated with better treatment adherence among patients from socially vulnerable areas," Faraj said.

He noted that there are many reasons that adherence to these medications can drop off. 

Researchers suspect that 340B hospitals may have some programs that help vulnerable patients stick with their drug regimen. These might include financial aid for out-of-pocket drug costs or medication management programs, he said.

The findings were recently published in the journal Cancer.

More information

The American Cancer Society has more about prostate cancer treatment.

SOURCE: Michigan Medicine - University of Michigan, news release, March 20, 2024

What This Means For You

Hospitals may have resources to help men with prostate cancer follow their doctor's prescription.

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