Spiralling health care costs are a constant issue in the national policy debate. The expense of cancer care raises especially poignant issues. We asked Peter Neumann, who has surveyed oncologists; and Yousuf Zafar and Amy Abernethy, who have investigated cancer patients’ experiences, for their insights.
Peter J. Neumann, the director of the Tufts’ Center for the Evaluation of Value and Risk in Health at the Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies, writes that new cancer medications come with hope but also great expense. Based on surveys he has conducted, Neumann, a health economist, has found that oncologists often are “placed in the middle of an economic predicament.” It’s a dilemma not peculiar to cancer care, “but perhaps in no other disease are the stakes presented as frequently and as starkly.”
Yousuf Zafar, MD, MHS, and Amy P. Abernethy, MD, both from the Duke Cancer Institute, write that “somewhere in the bar graphs detailing trillions of dollars in projected spending, the daily experience of the cancer patient has been lost.” In their recent research, they found that not only does cancer treatment sometimes cause physical toxicity, but “cancer treatment might also cause financial toxicity that affects the daily lives of patients and their families.”