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Tuesday, July 8, 2008

It's an inconvenience, but the alternative is death: Paying for cancer drugs

William Dexter, a 67-year-old retired Air Force sergeant and mail carrier, had been coming to his doctor's office for monthly intravenous immune globulin infusions to bolster his immune system after a bone-marrow transplant, radiation and chemotherapy and other drugs for non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, a cancer of the lymph system.

The infusions can leave patients drained and shivering, with low blood pressure. William liked getting them in his doctor's office, where nurses comforted him with coffee, blankets, and chats about his dogs and military history.

But with the gap between his Medicare policy and his doctor's expenses, the doctor's medical practice was losing about $500 on each infusion. Now, instead of one monthly doctor visit, William makes two 90-minute round trips: one to the doctor for a checkup and to open the IV port in his chest, and another to the hospital, where the four-hour infusion involves more delays and less comfort. "It's an inconvenience, but the alternative is death," William says.
"I knew the doctor had to do it to stay in business."

Advice to cancer patients who need to take costly drugs: Ask about the drug company's financial aid programs.

Read another chemotherapy story.

Thanks to Marilyn Chase for the source article in today's Wall St. Journal.

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