The Role of Pharmacists in Improving Patient Access to Oncology Drugs

Pharmacy Times Oncology Edition, June 2022, Volume 4, Issue 3

The efforts of pharmacists remain critical to the success of treatment outcomes.

In the past 2 years, great strides have been made toward improving patient access to oncology therapies. The COVID-19 pandemic helped raise awareness about preexisting challenges many patients face when it comes to health care access. However, these challenges have long existed for patients with cancer, who may need to travel extensive distances to access care. Additionally, the specialty pharmacies that provide patients with the medications they need may not always be close by, sometimes requiring extensive travel just to retrieve medication.

These challenges can cause delays in treatment start times, which is a critical period in the treatment journey. Further, barriers to care and treatment can place added strain on the mental health of patients with cancer, as hope in the potential for a positive treatment outcome remains crucial for them to successfully face the difficulties that may lie ahead. When patients learn they may have a multitude of barriers to overcome to access treatments that could save their lives—whether the barriers be financial, travel, or otherwise—it can become far more difficult to maintain the hope they need to persevere and successfully fight the disease.

In this way, maintaining patients’ hope in the potential for positive treatment outcomes is critical. For many, that hope can be made possible with the presence of an oncology drug expert on their team: the pharmacist. Pharmacists can act as a 1-stop shop for everything a patient needs to know and understand about the treatment journey, from co-pay and financial assistance programs to refill coordination and treatment adherence checkups.

In our cover story, on page 10, Josh Howell, PharmD, BCOP, discusses the role of the pharmacist in facilitating biosimilar therapeutic interchange processes, which can help to reduce the cost of care and enable success in value-based delivery models.

On page 19, coauthors Brooke Peters, PharmD, BCOP, and Christine Pfaff, RPh, discuss the critical role pharmacists play in patient education on the importance of using routine screenings for the prevention and early detection of breast and cervical cancer among women, which can help lower the cost of cancer care or eliminate the need entirely.

The efforts of pharmacists remain critical to the success of treatment outcomes, yet their impact can be much greater when they are also included on patient care teams to maximize their role in addressing the access barriers many patients may face during cancer treatment throughout the country.