Treatment & Doctors

Bristol-Myers Squibb Donates $6.9 Million for Patients of Cancers Like Mesothelioma

Written By:
Jan 23, 2012
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Written By: Mark Hall,
January 23, 2012

Bristol-Myers Squibb announced late last week that the company donated $6.9 million in 2011 to a non-profit that is dedicated to providing financial assistance to those in need of health treatments.

This donation, made to HealthWell Foundation, will benefit mesothelioma patients who are faced with expensive treatment options like surgery, chemotherapy and radiation, which cumulatively can cost in the tens of thousands of dollars.

Mesothelioma is the rare cancer of the lining of the lungs that is caused by asbestos exposure. Approximately 3,000 people are affected by this disease each year in the United States.

The pharmaceutical giant, known for developing popular drugs like Plavix, Abilify and Reyatz, has stated that the donation to the HealthWell Foundation will better aid cancer patients with copayments, healthcare premiums, coinsurance and out-of-pocket expenses related to their disease.

“Bristol-Myers Squibb has robust patient assistance programs for cancer patients and this contribution reinforces our commitment to helping patients gain access to the medicines they need,” said John Tsai, who is vice president of the U.S. Medical division of the company.

The company’s involvement with mesothelioma is most notable through their development of Cisplatin, one of the primary chemotherapy drugs used to fight the rare cancer. The platinum-based drug was originally approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1978 and is often used in tandem with other treatments.

Lowering the Cost of Mesothelioma Treatment

Since the organization’s inception in 2003, the HealthWell Foundation has been dedicated to ensuring that no patient is denied health care because of financial limitations. It works with patients one-on-one to determine what their medical needs are, and then to help cover them. Ranked by Forbes as “one of America’s 20 most efficient charities,” the non-profit has claimed to help over 100,000 patients already.

The efficient and reputable organization helps a variety of cancer patients, including those with mesothelioma, by providing the assistance they need in a timely manner.

Patients diagnosed with this rare cancer of the lining of the lungs typically survive between four and 18 months after diagnosis. During this period, expenses can quickly add up. The average cost of surgeries for cancers of the lung is about $40,000.

Radiation treatment, which is often required on an ongoing basis, can cost approximately $2,000 a month. Chemotherapy treatment costs, though they vary from drug to drug, can range from a few thousand to as much as $30,000 over a multiple-week period.

Because most treatments for mesothelioma are not considered extremely effective, many patients undergo multiple treatments which can make the total cost of care enormous.

The relief that HealthWell can provide because of the Bristol-Myers Squibb $7 million donation will hopefully prove significant to the mesothelioma patients who need financial assistance. The non-profit’s low overhead and efficient model should allow much of the donation to be passed along to patients in need.

According to the drug company, the relationship between the two organizations stem from a shared vision of giving cancer patients widespread access to care, despite financial boundaries.

“We are proud to support the HealthWell Foundation in its mission to reduce barriers to care for under-insured patients.”

Beyond the donation to HealthWell, Bristol-Myers Squibb has helped over 200,000 patients in 2011 by providing free prescription drugs, estimated at a value of $400 million. This was facilitated through the Bristol-Myers Squibb Patient Assistance Foundation, in addition to the company’s other programs.

The problem of rising medical expenses has become extremely evident over the previous few years. A 2011 study from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and the Duke University Medical Center stated that out-of-pocket cancer-related expenses average around $712 per month, with many of the study’s respondents calling the costs a ‘catastrophic problem.’

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