In the latest ASCO in Action Podcast, ASCO CEO Dr. Clifford A. Hudis highlights key studies from this year’s ASCO Quality Care Symposium, an annual meeting that brings together oncology leaders and members of the cancer care team to share strategies and methods for improving measurement and implementation of quality and safety activities in oncology. During the podcast, Dr. Hudis shares key findings from studies presented during the symposium that focused around financial toxicity and opioid use.
According to Dr. Hudis, oncologists regularly see the effects and impact of high treatment costs on patients. When addressing financial toxicity, Dr. Hudis says that many patients “are not taking their prescribed medication because of cost, they’re drawing down their savings when they have savings, and they’re often not paying their other household bills, or taking other drastic measures because the cancer treatment that they have to receive has become so expensive.”
One study found that one-third of cancer patients were uninsured and more often reported refusing or delaying treatment due to the cost of care. Also, those with health insurance reported having higher cost-related emotional distress, as well as family members experiencing financial stress due to the patient’s cancer care.
Turning to opioid use, Dr. Hudis says that although there is evidence that cancer patients are at a lower risk of becoming addicted to opioids, they are not immune. One study found that deaths attributed to opioid use by cancer patients were about ten times less that in the general population. However, the highest death rates in cancer patients due to opioids came from individuals with lung, gastrointestinal, head and neck, hematologic, and genitourinary cancers.
Dr. Hudis notes that ASCO is very supportive of efforts that address opioids misuse and abuse, while keeping a primary concern on adequate pain control for cancer patients.
“We are working continuously with policy makers to ensure that both federal and state initiatives that are implemented do not impede cancer patients’ access to essential pain medication,” says Dr. Hudis.