by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
Immuno-oncology therapies engage the body’s immune system in fighting off cancer, offering some patients unprecedented results. But as a new policy brief from the Institute for Patient Access explains, these innovative therapies’ high cost has led insurers to require burdensome cost-sharing. Thus, some cancer patients are barred from accessing what could be the best hope for fighting off a deadly disease.
Authored by oncologist Alan Marks, MD, and scientific writer Mary Ann Chapman, PhD, “Improving Patient Access to Immuno-Oncology Therapies” notes that no therapy prior to immuno-oncology significantly extended the lives of patients with advanced melanoma. Melanoma is a particularly deadly form of skin cancer.
Available immuno-oncology therapies take on two primary forms thus far. Checkpoint inhibitors work by preventing cancer cells from “fooling the immune system into treating them like normal cells,” the brief’s authors explain. Several types of cancer also now have immuno-oncology therapies that take the form of vaccines.
Yet costs and coverage obstacles present real challenges for cancer patients who might benefit from immuno-oncology therapies. Health plans frequently place these therapies on a specialty tier, which may require patients to pay 20-25% of the medication’s cost. This level of cost-sharing presents a burden for nearly any patient. But it can be particularly challenging for cancer patients, who may have already exhausted their savings in the course of cancer treatment or had to leave their jobs and forfeit their health coverage.
Policymakers and insurers must find a solution, the authors explain, that allows patients to access these breakthrough and potentially life-saving therapies. To learn more, read “Improving Patient Access to Immuno-Oncology Therapies.”