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Drug donation program helps cancer patients in need

A new program at OSUCCC – James allows patients, hospitals and non-profit community clinics to donate no-longer-needed oral cancer therapy drugs for re-dispensing to cancer patients in financial need.
Photo credit: OSUCCC – James

Sponsored By: OSUCCC – James

A new program at The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center – Arthur G. James Cancer Hospital and Richard J. Solove Research Institute (OSUCCC – James) allows patients, hospitals and non-profit community clinics to donate no-longer-needed oral cancer therapy drugs for re-dispensing to cancer patients in financial need.

In partnership with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the OSUCCC – James launched the oral cancer drug repository in February 2020 to reduce drug waste and help patients with costs of cancer therapy. Previous state rules allowed only for the collection of unopened medication that was dispensed for the prescribed patient but never picked up.

“In cancer, it is quite common for patients to switch to a new medication or experience a medication dose reduction. This results in a lot of wasted medication that must be disposed of,” says Julie Kennerly-Shah, PharmD, a pharmacist and associate director of pharmacy at the OSUCCC – James.

Together with the State of Ohio Board of Pharmacy, the Ohio State pharmacy team developed governing rules that allow patients to donate these unneeded medications for re-dispensing to patients in financial need through the OSUCCC – James hospital-based Medical Assistance Program.

“One in four cancer patients actually report engaging in some risky behavior to try to save on costs—skipping refills of medications or even splitting doses,” adds Kennerly-Shah.

The oncology drug take-back program currently is accepting capecitabine (marketed as Xeloda) and temozolomide (marketed as Temodar). These oral therapies are used in a number of the more common cancers, including neuroendocrine, breast, neuro-oncology and gastrointestinal cancers.

“Financial toxicity is a very real concern for families facing a cancer diagnosis. As an institution, we want to do all that we can to reduce additional stressors for patients so they can focus on getting well,” says David Cohn, MD, a gynecologic oncologist and chief medical officer for the cancer hospital, who adds that the Medical Assistance Program helps patients who are unable to afford their medications. “The overall medical assistance program and the new cancer repository are steps toward our ultimate goal of addressing the high cost of cancer care by embracing opportunities to help patients with the greatest financial need.”

Tori Geib, who was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer just days after her 30th birthday, says the Medical Assistance Program was critical in helping her gain access to the medications she needs to treat her disease. She notes this is especially impactful to the metastatic patient population who will be in treatment the rest of their lives.

“Cancer is a devastating financial burden for anyone. I had a great job and great private insurance—then my diagnosis forced me to go on disability. In just two weeks, that insurance coverage was gone and my monthly medication costs were estimated at $11,000,” says Geib, who now spends much of her time advocating for issues that impact young cancer thrivers. “There’s so much stress that goes along with this diagnosis. I am so grateful for the help I have received in getting the medications I need to treat my disease so I can live my best life with less financial toxicity.”

The oral cancer drug repository is a new component of the overall Medical Assistance Program at the OSUCCC – James. The program consists of pharmacists, medical assistance program coordinators, clinical financial case managers and other support personnel who work one-on-one with patients to reduce health care costs associated with cancer treatment. Since the program’s inception in 2001, the team has helped more than 30,000 patients gain access to grant funding and manufacturer-assistance programs, resulting in a patient savings of more than $500 million.

To learn more about donating oral drug therapies, call the OSUCCC – James Outpatient Pharmacy at 614-293-5920 or visit cancer.osu.edu.