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September 12, 2019

Treatment Advances Alone Aren't Enough to Stand Up to Cancer: How a High-Touch Specialty Pharmacy Can Help

Cancer seems to affect everyone by either having the disease or a friend or loved one coping with the illness. According to the organization Stand Up To Cancer, which raises money for collaborative cancer research and is hosting Stand Up To Cancer Day on September 13, every day in the U.S., 4,828 people are diagnosed with the disease. Even with early detection and the amazing treatment advances we’ve seen, cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the U.S. for both children and adults. While innovative and lifesaving, cancer treatments are not easy and pose many challenges for patients. A specialty pharmacy that provides individualized care can help patients overcome these challenges and stand up to cancer.

From Side Effects to Costs, the Hurdles of Cancer Treatment

The sometimes intolerable side effects to cancer treatment are well known. If they get too severe, it can lead to reductions in dosages, changes in therapy or a patient discontinuing their potentially lifesaving treatment altogether. Even dose reductions or switches to treatment alternatives can lead to less than optimal therapy, therefore, it is important to find effective ways to manage side effects so patients can stay on the preferred therapy and become survivors.

Costs can also be a concern. Some new cancer treatments can be over $100,000,[1] making therapy costs a potential financial hardship for families. One study found that in trying to save money, 20% of cancer patients took less than the prescribed amount of their medication, 19% only partially filled prescriptions and 24% avoided filling their prescription altogether.[2]

Providing the Support Patients Need: EnvisionSpecialty Offers Side Effect Management Strategies that Help Enable 98.6% of Cancer Patients to Remain on Optimal Therapy

Supporting the patient through their oncology treatment is critical to their success and safety. EnvisionSpecialty’s oncology care team provides comprehensive support from the very first patient interaction, working with patients and their care teams before the first dose is even dispensed, discussing treatment expectations, key points that can affect therapy and determining their readiness to begin treatment. We also assess all patients for copay assistance, facilitating secondary coverage through copay support programs, grants or charitable funding to help patients afford their medications and continue their treatment.

Our clinically trained pharmacists continue to monitor and communicate with patients and their care teams throughout treatment to resolve any obstacles to initiating and maintaining optimal care. Our pharmacists are trained to provide over-the-counter, prescription and lifestyle recommendations to help clinically prevent, manage and resolve medication side effects. This care model has led to only 4.4% of our patients reducing their dosage, compared to an industry average of 14.5%, and a mere 1.4% of patients discontinuing treatment due to side effects, as opposed to the industry average of 6%.[3] 

Dose Reduction Graphic[1]

Pharmacy Support in Action

When a child is diagnosed with cancer it is particularly devastating and, if there are multiple caregivers, there can be additional challenges to treatment, particularly when there are changes to therapy. For example, EnvisionSpecialty was working with a pediatric cancer patient that had recently had his treatment dosage lowered due to intolerable side effects. During routine monitoring, an EnvisionSpecialty pharmacist identified that the child’s father was unaware of the reduction and was planning on administering the full dose to his son. The pharmacist verified the dose reduction with the prescriber and confirmed that the father understood the reason for the new dosing schedule. The patient started his new dose, is no longer experiencing side effects and is able to safely continue his treatment.

Making a Difference in the Fight Against Cancer

More than 15.5 million Americans are surviving today with a past cancer diagnosis.[4] As people continue to advocate, research and innovate to stand up to this devastating disease, EnvisionSpecialty will continue to provide the support patients need to fight cancer.

[1] Kantarjian, Hagop, et al. High Cancer Drug Prices in the United States: Reasons and Proposed Solutions. Journal of Oncology Practice. Vol. 10, Issue 4, July 2014.

[2] Zafar, S, et al. The financial toxicity of cancer treatment: a pilot study assessing out-of-pocket expenses and the insured cancer patient's experience. The Oncologist. Feb 26, 2103.

[3] EnvisionPharmacies (2019). 2018 Specialty Rx Key Performance Indicators.

[4] American Cancer Society (2019). Cancer Facts & Figures 2019.

 

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