6 things to check before swallowing that pill

What do you do when your doctor recommends an expensive medication?

Pharmacist Andrew Burgdorf from the Upstate Cancer Center offers this advice:

  • Andrew Burgdorf, PharmD

    Andrew Burgdorf, PharmD

    Find out how much of the bill your health insurer will pay, so you know how much you will owe. Upstate provides financial counselors to help patients understand expenses.

  • Ask whether the drug manufacturer offers co-pay assistance, and explore options through organizations such as the American Cancer Society or the Cancer Financial Assistance Coalition.
  • Think twice about purchasing more than a one-month supply at a time. If your medication needs change, you cannot return the drugs for a refund.
  • Double-check the instructions regarding dosage and frequency and whether the pills should be taken with food or on an empty stomach.
  • Make sure your health care provider and pharmacist know about any supplements you take, including fish oil, since some supplements could reduce the effectiveness of some cancer drugs.
  • Ask your health care provider and/or pharmacist what side effects are to be expected, what symptoms may signal an adverse reaction — and what to do if you experience a reaction.

Pharmacists such as Burgdorf, who specialize in oncology, can answer more specific questions.

This article appears in the summer 2015 issue of Cancer Care magazine.


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