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J Cancer Surviv. 2011 Dec;5(4):395-404. doi: 10.1007/s11764-011-0188-4. Epub 2011 Jul 29.

Cost-related medication nonadherence and cost-saving strategies used by elderly Medicare cancer survivors.

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  • 1Department of Population Medicine, Harvard Medical School and Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Institute, Boston, MA 02215, USA.



This study was conducted to compare cost-related medication nonadherence among elderly Medicare enrollees with and without cancer and to describe the strategies cancer survivors used to offset the costs of medications.


Using the 2005 Medicare Current Beneficiary Survey and Medicare claims, we compared self-reported cost-related medication nonadherence (CRN), spending less on basic needs to afford medicines, and cost reduction strategies among elderly beneficiaries with and without cancer. Descriptive statistics and logistic regression models were used to characterize and compare these populations.


In a nationally representative sample of 9,818 non-institutionalized elderly Medicare enrollees, 1,392 (14%) were classified as cancer survivors based on Medicare claims. Cancer survivors were older, more highly educated, more likely to be male and non-Hispanic, and more likely to have multiple comorbidities, poorer health status, and employer-paid medication coverage. While 10% of cancer survivors and 11% without cancer reported CRN, about 6% and 9% (p = 0.004) of those with and without cancer, respectively, reported spending less on basic needs to offset the costs of medications. Cancer survivors who reported CRN (n = 143) had lower income (62.2% versus 48.6%, p = 0.11) and were more likely to be African-American (13.0% versus 6.4%, p = 0.033) and have non-employer-based medication insurance (p = 0.002) compared to those who did not report CRN. In adjusted analyses, CRN among the two groups was similar, but with some subgroup differences noted by gender and cancer type. Use of cost reduction strategies was mostly similar among cancer survivors and those without cancer.


Cost-related medication nonadherence medication is common among elderly Medicare beneficiaries, but appears to be similar among those with and without cancer.

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