Supporting the Patient with Multiple Myeloma
By Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C
Having a cancer diagnosis is very expensive even for those with insurance. For those who are underinsured or uninsured, the cost of care can be a strong deterrent to accessing treatment. For patients with a chronic disease, such as multiple myeloma, the cost of annual deductibles, office visit co-pays, and prescription drug co-pays can quickly mount up. Many of the newer drugs used in treating multiple myeloma are available only through specialty pharmacies, which require preauthorization processes to access medications.
Patients eligible for transplant face additional financial, logistical, and psychosocial issues, for example, having to travel significant distance to a transplant center for care, which adds the cost of transportation, lodging for caregivers, and being away from home into the mix.
Fortunately, for the individual with multiple myeloma there are resources available to help with co-payments, medication assistance (including free medications), transportation, and lodging costs. Among resources to help with paying for medications are the Chronic Disease Fund (1-877-968-7233); the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society (1-877-557-2672); the Patient Access Network Foundation (1-866-316-7263); and the Patient Advocate Foundation Co-Pay Relief Program (1-866-512-3861).
The following anticancer drugs have pharmaceutical company programs that will help walk you through all the benefits that your patient may be eligible for throughout their treatment for multiple myeloma:
- Velcade (bortezomib) (1-866-835-2233) www.velcade.com/payingfortreatment.aspx
- Revlimid (lenalidomide) (1-800-931-8691) www.celgenepatientsupport.com
- Pomalyst (pomalidomide) (1-800-931-8691) www.celgenepatientsupport.com
- Kyprolis (carfilzomib) (1-855-669-9360) www.kyprolis.com/resources
In addition to financial assistance information, each of the above has educational materials written specifically to help the patient and their caregivers understand the disease and treatment.
Here’s an important fact: For those men and women seeking consultation for the first time for multiple myeloma, a key question to ask during the initial consult is, “Have you served in the military?” Due to exposure to chemicals such as Agent Orange, ionizing radiation exposure, and—most recently discovered—contaminated drinking water from Camp LeJeune from January 1, 1957, to December 31, 1987, veterans diagnosed with multiple myeloma may be eligible for benefits and care from the U.S. military. You can find more information on these benefits and how to access care at www.publichealth.va.gov.
Visit ACCC’s Improving Quality Care in Small-Population Cancers: Multiple Myeloma project webpage for additional information on patient and provider resources.
Virginia Vaitones, MSW, OSW-C, is an oncology social worker at Pen Bay Medical Center in Rockport, Maine, and president of the Association of Community Cancer Centers.