PURPOSE: The financial toxicity of anticancer drugs is well-documented, but little is known about the costs of drugs used to manage cancer-associated symptoms.
METHODS: We reviewed relevant guidelines and compiled drugs used to manage seven cancer-associated symptoms (anorexia and cachexia, chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, constipation, diarrhea, exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, cancer-associated fatigue, and chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting). Using GoodRx website, we identified the retail price (cash price at retail pharmacies) and lowest price (discounted, best-case scenario of out-of-pocket costs) for patients without insurance for each drug or formulation for a typical fill. We describe lowest prices here.
RESULTS: For anorexia and cachexia, costs ranged from $5 US dollars (USD; generic olanzapine or mirtazapine tablets) to $1,156 USD (brand-name dronabinol solution) and varied widely by formulation of the same drug or dosage: for olanzapine 5 mg, $5 USD (generic tablet) to $239 USD (brand-name orally disintegrating tablet). For chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy, costs of duloxetine varied from $12 USD (generic) to $529 USD (brand-name). For constipation, the cost of sennosides or polyethylene glycol was <$15 USD, whereas newer agents such as methylnaltrexone were expensive ($1,001 USD). For diarrhea, the cost of generic loperamide or diphenoxylate-atropine tablets was <$15 USD. For exocrine pancreatic insufficiency, only brand-name formulations were available, range of cost, $1,072 USD-$1,514 USD. For cancer-associated fatigue, the cost of generic dexamethasone or dexmethylphenidate was <$15 USD, whereas brand-name modafinil was more costly ($1,284 USD). For a 4-drug nausea and vomiting prophylaxis regimen, costs ranged from $181 USD to $1,430 USD.
CONCLUSION: We highlight the high costs of many symptom control drugs and the wide variation in the costs of these drugs. These findings can guide patient-clinician discussions about cost-effectively managing symptoms, while promoting the use of less expensive formulations when possible.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
A.G. and R.S. were supported by individual Conquer Cancer/the ASCO Foundation Young Investigator Awards. H.M.P. reports support from NIH P30 CA77598 Masonic Cancer Center and the Leukemia and Lymphoma society for unrelated work.
© 2021 by American Society of Clinical Oncology.
- Antineoplastic Agents/economics
- Drug Costs
- Drugs, Generic/economics
- Financial Stress
- Neoplasms/drug therapy
PubMed: MeSH publication types
- Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
- Journal Article
- Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural