By Francois LaFleur, Vice President Medical Affairs at Helsinn Therapeutics
Of the nearly 1.7 Americans who are expected to receive a cancer diagnosis this year1, an estimated 650,000 of them will undergo chemotherapy in an outpatient oncology clinic.2 While chemotherapy remains a mainstay standard of care treatment for several types of cancer, it can trigger debilitating and troubling side effects, including nausea and vomiting.3 Chemotherapy-induced nausea and vomiting (CINV) is one of the most common preventable side effects of chemotherapy, which could affect up to 80% of patients who receive anticancer treatment.3
Treatment guidelines, such as those issued by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN), provide physicians guidance as to which class of efficacious drugs (e.g., 5HT-3 and NK- 1 antagonists, dexamethasone and olanzapine) should be given prophylactically.4 Some of these CINV drugs can prevent the acute (i.e., within the first 24 hours after the first cycle of chemotherapy) and/or the delayed (more than 24 hours after receiving chemo, from day 2-5) effects of CINV.3 However, patients’ access to these supportive care medications can be problematic, either because they have difficulty establishing their eligibility to receive anti-CINV therapy, or because they lack insurance coverage. In some cases, anti-CINV medications may be unaffordable even to insured individuals who meet the eligibility criteria.
In recognition of some of the hurdles certain patients face in accessing treatment for CINV, The Helsinn Group recently launched Helsinn Cares, a program that is designed to help cancer patients, their families, and healthcare professionals obtain medications that can prevent CINV. Helsinn Cares provides services and support for patients and their caregivers — regardless of patients’ insurance status — to help them secure access to anti-CINV therapies, as well as reimbursement for these needed medications. The initiative also provides tools and resources for physicians, pharmacists, nurses, and office staff on how to help patients with access- and reimbursement-related issues.
Helsinn Cares is one of several industry-sponsored efforts focused on specifically helping cancer patients offering services such as a Pay $0 Savings Program, a Quick Start Voucher Program, and a Patient Assistance Program. If you are interested in learning more about Helsinn Cares, please visit www.HelsinnReimbursement.com.
1 Cancer Facts & Figures 2017. American Cancer Society; 2017. http://bit.ly/2nUSCus. Accessed May 17, 2017.
2 Preventing infections in cancer patients. U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Division of Cancer Prevention and Control; 2017. https://www.cdc.gov/cancer/preventinfections/providers.htm. Accessed May 22, 2017.
3 Nausea and vomiting (PDQ®) – health professional version. Bethesda, MD: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health, National Cancer Institute; 2016. https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/treatment/side-effects/nausea/nausea-pdq, 2017.
4 NCCN Guidelines® and NCCN Compendium. National Comprehensive Cancer Network. http://bit.ly/2sRXG4H. Accessed June 20, 2017.