Compliance On the Cancer Front

Amanda BrownGuest Blog: Amanda Brown, Director of Rx Coordinators at BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy

Navigating through cancer treatment tends to go better for patients when healthcare professionals offer adherence-promoting tools and proactively manage side effects, concludes a study this month in the journal Cancer Nursing by Sandra Spoelstra, Ph.D. and fellow researchers from Michigan State University.

Not long ago, chemotherapy for cancer treatment meant intravenous administration at a healthcare facility. Today, a wide variety of oral chemotherapy medications are available to be taken at home by patients. Not surprisingly, most patients with cancer prefer oral medications to intravenous ones; however, medication compliance can be an issue with this route of administration.

At first glance, cancer treatment in pill form sounds like it would be easier for patients, and in some ways it is, but any oncology therapy is inherently complex and presents challenges due to multiple medications, dosing schedules, and side effects. Non-adherence to treatment can stem from not understanding complex instructions or in response to mounting side effects. In any case, missing doses can lower treatment effectiveness.

Dr. Spoelstra’s study noted that 42 percent of cancer patients miss the mark with medication compliance. The cancer patients in this study were more likely to miss doses if their chemotherapy regimen was more complex. So what helped? Dr. Spoelstra’s research indicated that adherence was improved by regular communication and contact with healthcare professionals or even just with the addition of automatic reminder calls.

BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy offers numerous oncology drugs as well as an oncology therapy management program that increases patient compliance through patient education, encouragement, and side effect management. This underlies our efficient starts of therapy and above-average national refill rates. Our goals are to make it as easy as possible for BioPlus patients to start their therapy, while also helping patients reach the best possible outcomes.

Keeping in mind that Dr. Spoelstra found that only 58 percent of cancer patients are completely compliant with their medication treatment plan, I am particularly proud of the compliance of our BioPlus oncology patients. According to recent compliance statistics drawn from a sampling of the treatment programs at BioPlus (based on 3,124 patients being treated for oncology, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and with Ig therapy medications), only 13 of 461oncology patients had any compliance issues during this sample period of their treatment plans. This results in an impressive 97.2 percent compliance for our oncology category – far exceeding Dr. Spoelstra’s 58 percent observation. This is important because better adherence leads to the best possible treatment outcomes for patients.

BioPlus Oncology
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Spoelstra SL, Given BA, Given CW, et al. An intervention to improve adherence and management of symptoms for patients prescribed oral chemotherapy agents: An exploratory study. Cancer Nursing January/February 2013;36(1):18-28.

Michigan State University, news release, Jan. 10, 2013.

December 2012. BioPlus Specialty Pharmacy internal statistics.


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