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Late Chemo: Expensive and Unnecessarily Painful

Posted on Mar 7, 2014

    A patient is prepared to receive chemotherapy. Photo by Phil and Pam (CC BY 2.0)

Chemotherapy administered in the last months of life—which offers a boon to profit-seeking drug companies (one month’s supply can cost $10,000 or more)—significantly increased the odds that a cancer patient would require intensive treatment in the last week of life, late referral to hospice care, and death away from their preferred place, an investigation has shown.

MedPage Today reports:

Patients treated with palliative chemotherapy were five to 10 times more likely to receive intensive medical care and to die in an intensive care unit (ICU). Fewer than half died at home as compared with two-thirds of patients with metastatic cancer not treated with palliative chemotherapy.

The findings call into question the benefits of palliative chemotherapy in terminally ill cancer patients, according to an article published online in BMJ.

“Our results suggest that less use of palliative chemotherapy among patients recognized to have a life expectancy of 6 months or less—or more frequent end-of-life discussions in this group—may reduce intensive end-of-life care and promote earlier access to hospice services, thus improving the quality of advanced cancer patients’ end-of-life care,” Holly Prigerson, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York City, and colleagues concluded.

Read more here.

—Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

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