New Cancer Drug Take-Back Program Helps Patients Access Vital Medication

Cancer care can cost thousands per month and assistance programs are critical to affordability, access and survival

(COLUMBUS, Ohio) – The cost of cancer can be measured in many ways. The human toll is steadily declining, with cancer deaths down 27 percent since their peak in 1991. But while early detection and therapeutic innovations are saving lives, the financial burden of fighting cancer can force some patients to make tough decisions about whether they can afford treatment. With the average cost of new cancer drugs at over $10,000 per month, experts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) are finding innovative ways to expand medication assistance programs to help cancer patients access the medications they need to treat their disease.

     “One in four cancer patients say they have engaged in risky behavior to try to save on costs, such as skipping refills or even splitting doses,” said Julie Kennerly-Shah, PharmD, Associate Director of Pharmacy at OSUCCC – James. “Our financial counselors work with patients so they don’t have to make decisions about whether they can afford potentially life-saving treatment.”

      Through the OSUCCC – James Medical Assistance Program, financial counselors have helped more than 30,000 patients navigate the complicated world of medication assistance programs, helping patients gain access to vital medications valued at more than $500 million. The OSUCCC – James also worked closely with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy to implement new rules that allow patients to donate previously dispensed oral cancer medications that are no longer needed for re-dispensing to patients who cannot afford their medications. The OSUCCC – James has launched a new cancer drug repository program to keep these expensive cancer medications from going to waste.

     “Patients who have adjustments to their treatment plan or dosage can end up with extra pills, and until now those pills had to be disposed of,” said Kennerly-Shah. “This new program allows patients to bring that unneeded medication back to the hospital. The donated pills are examined and added to a repository where we wait for the next patient that has a financial need so we can re-dispense that medication.” 

     The program is in its early stages, but experts hope it can soon be used as a model for institutions nationwide to implement drug take-back programs and also help states implement rules to make these programs possible.

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A new program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center –Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute allows patients to donate unneeded oral cancer pills so they can be re-dispensed to patients who might otherwise not be able to afford their medication.

Tori Geib (left) speaks with financial counselor Ryan Ramirez at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute to navigate medication assistance programs that help her afford treatment for breast cancer.

New cancer medications cost an average of $10,000 per month, but experts at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute are finding innovative ways to expand their financial assistance program so more patients have access to the medications they need.

After being diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, Tori Geib quickly learned the financial burden of cancer treatment. After trying to navigate assistance programs on her own, financial counselors at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute helped her gain access to the medications she needs.

Pharmacist Julie Kennerly-Shah, PharmD, worked with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy to adopt new rules that allow oral cancer drugs to be donated for re-dispensing to patients in need. She is leading implementation of new oral cancer drug repository at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute that prevents expensive cancer medications from going to waste.