Understanding Financial Toxicity

By Zack Buck

In the ongoing fight to control the cost of health care, new understanding of the phenomenon of financial toxicity could play a vital role.  Seen currently in the long-term cancer context, recent studies (here and here, and discussed here and here) have shown that individuals experiencing financial distress as a result of the cost of their care experience higher rates of mortality than those who do not.

In a forthcoming article in the Boston College Law Review (draft here), I make the argument that, following these groundbreaking studies, a new understanding of financial toxicity could transform clinical decision-making.  Indeed, a doctor’s examination of the impact of cost on the patient before deciding to rely on an expensive drug (particularly where a cheaper clinical equivalent exists) could serve as an important tool in limiting the worst effects of expensive care.  And treating cost as a negative side effect (like any other negative side effect) may allow for an explicit awareness and consideration of cost—something too often missing from health care decision-making today.

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