COLUMBUS, Ohio– Tori Gaib from Bellefontaine says every day living with stage four metastatic breast cancer is different.
- A rule change last year allows for the donation of unused, unexpired oral cancer medication
- The State Board of Pharmacy teamed up with Ohio State University’s Comprehensive Cancer Center at the James to launch the Cancer Drug Repository program
- Patients with financial need identified by the James’ Medical Assistance Program can qualify for free, repurposed oral medications capecitabine and temozolomide
“The day to day is kind of unpredictable,” says Gaib, who was diagnosed in 2016. “There are some days where I can put my makeup on and come out here. There are other days where I really can’t leave my house.”
Since she was diagnosed almost four years ago this march, her breast cancer spread to her bones.
“Pain day to day based on my bones has been a huge problem with this disease,” says Gaib. “I, unfortunately, had to retire at the age of 30.”
The former chef is now an advocate for other metastatic breast cancer patients, with her own blog called Metastatic Millennial. She says her first round of medications costs around $11,000 per month, and she’s now on round seven.
The cost was a burden she didn’t know the gravity of until she left her job and private insurance. She says for people with cancer like hers, treatments change over time as cancer progresses, which means leftover medication.
“So I have to go on to something else,” she explains. “Now, I have an entire month’s supply medication that will go to waste. That’s $11,000 that someone could have used.”
She’s now on Medicaid and says medical assistance programs like the one at the OSU Comprehensive Cancer Center – James helped her bear the costs.
“Aside from that, there’s no way that I would have been able to afford this medication,” says Gaib. “And realistically, I would have been on the lower end of this prognosis had I not had access to these drugs along the way.”
Improving access to these medications despite the cost is the goal of a new program between the cancer hospital and the State Board of Pharmacy.
Officials from the state and the James announced the new Cancer Drug Repository Program on Tuesday in recognition of the 20th World Cancer Day.
“The expense of many of these chemotherapy drugs leave people to have a financial hardship that adds extra stress in their lives,” says Dr. David Cohn, MD, Chief Medical Officer at The James. “So our goal is to focus on patient’s cancer outcomes, and minimize that financial impact and financial stress that’s associated with treatment.”
In 2019, the State Board of Pharmacy changed its rules to allow the donation of oral cancer medication for re-dispensing. The new program will begin by accepting unused drugs capecitabine and temozolomide, but more drugs can be added over time.
“We chose these medications because they are associated sometimes with a high out of pocket cost for patients, so providing them with the oral chemotherapy options from a previous patient, minimizes that financial impact on that patient,” says Cohn.
Gaib says for patients like her, programs like these are a blessing
“One of the hardest things is with knowing about this cancer is, I have this disease, I know how to treat it, but I can’t afford to treat it,” says Gaib.