Do oncologists discuss expensive anti-cancer drugs with their patients?
Thomson J., Schofield P., Mileshkin L., Agalianos E., Savulescu J., Zalcberg J., Jefford M.
BACKGROUND: In Australia, some anti-cancer drugs are only available at significant financial cost to patients. We sought the views and practices of Australian medical oncologists regarding discussion of high cost drugs (HCDs). PARTICIPANTS AND METHODS: A postal survey was mailed to all 274 members of the Medical Oncology Group of Australia. Three clinical scenarios described HCDs associated with either improved overall survival, encouraging response rate in a treatment-refractory cancer, or a scenario with improved treatment tolerability. Participants were asked about their discussion and prescription of HCDs. RESULTS: There was a 78% response rate. Most respondents were male (71%), worked in a metropolitan practice (87%) and spent more than 50% of their working time in patient care (87%). Forty-eight percent had previously prescribed a HCD. In the three scenarios, respondents would generally prescribe the drug if it were subsidised, however, between 28% and 41% (depending on the scenario) would not mention the HCD if it were not subsidised. Major reasons for not mentioning the HCD were concerns that discussion would 'worry the patient' or that the doctor would 'feel bad'. CONCLUSIONS: Despite literature suggesting that patients wish to be well informed and active participants in decision making, the practice of a significant percentage of Australian medical oncologists may prevent this.