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ASCO: Session Addresses Oral Chemotherapy Compliance

New strategies urged to overcome barriers that result in skipped doses and unfilled prescriptions

MONDAY, June 1 (HealthDay News) -- New strategies are needed to help cancer patients adhere to their oral chemotherapy regimens, according to "Compliance and Cost: Bitter Pills to Swallow in the Era of Oral Cancer Treatment," a session presented at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, held from May 29 to June 2 in Orlando, Fla.

Led by Angela DeMichele, M.D., of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, the session identified several common reasons why only 60 to 70 percent of patients continue taking adjuvant drugs such as tamoxifen beyond two years. Among the reasons were out-of-pocket costs, particularly for older patients on Medicare Part D prescription coverage who must bear the entire cost once they reach the "donut hole"; and intolerable side effects such as joint pain, hot flashes, and nausea.

Because non-compliance increases the risk of recurrence and death among patients, and results in higher costs for the health care system, DeMichele and colleagues urged oncologists to consider high-tech strategies such as cell phone programs and computerized pill boxes to improve outcomes. They cited a 2008 study showing higher compliance rates among adolescent patients who played a video game called "Re-Mission."

"You've got a very specific window of time in which you've got to take these drugs, or they're not going to work," DeMichele said in a statement.

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