Hyderabad: Financial constraints take a toll on cancer patients and their families despite the best of treatments available. The treatment leaves the families financially exhausted.
A recent study has found that 55 per cent of the patients complained that the ‘financial toxicity’ of cancer stressed them out and they could not bear the burden of further treatment. The study has highlighted how medical advances hold promise but financial devastation leaves the patient and the family in ruins.
Researchers in University of Michigan where the study was carried out have noted that physicians must assess the financial strain on the patient and his family. If it will take a toll on their financial security, they must guide them to help centres or gap funders.
Most Indian cancer patients are drained of financial resources as they have no insurance cover, or have exceeded the limits, and are left with no personal savings. A senior doctor explained: “The biggest problem in treatment of cancer in India is the cost of basic drugs. These are sold to the hospitals at a margin of 1,200 to 1,500 per cent. Doctors have no say on this as it is the hospital which dictates the rules.”
This is the major reason why a cancer drug that costs Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 at Nizam’s Institute of Medical Sciences is sold for Rs 50,000 to Rs 1.25 lakh in private hospitals.
Dr C. Nagesh, Nims additional professor, said, “Being a doctor I have faced trouble in the treatment of my father-in-law. If I took medicines from the Nims pharmacy, I had to pay extra money to the pharmacy of the private hospital only then did they treat him.” The problem is very widely seen at the ground level and families are upset with the exorbitant price of medicines and they find no one who can help them.
With cancer now becoming a multi-disciplinary treatment, the surgical oncologist, medical and radiation oncologist draft a treatment plan and place a package before them. The initial costs also have hidden costs which are often not declared and it is only over the course of treatment is it found that it has doubled.
Similarly, the recurring costs of chemotherapy, radiation, medication and also diagnostics are a treatment cost for the next three years and these are neither evaluated nor explained.
Dr Krishna Mohan, medical oncologist at the Indo-American Cancer Hospital, said, “Cost factors are a strain and we do see many cases daily where further treatment is a matter of concern. Those who come with these problems are put through the patient support programme and they are aided through these sectors.”
Dr Mohan said treatment was costly when the patients come with advanced stage cancer. “If diagnosed early and treated early the price is not a problem,” he said.
The problem is that the maximum number of cases in India are diagnosed in Stage 3 and Stage 4. Those who can’t afford treatment often never come back. Those who return want to know if there is a second option of treatment available for them.
In such cases, oncologists state that they give the patients the second line of treatment where survival is not guaranteed but other problems are controlled....