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Member Research & Reports

Member Research & Reports

Columbia Reports Access to Generics May Help Breast Cancer Patients Adhere to Therapy

Breast cancer patients who have access to generic hormone therapy are more likely to stick to their drug treatment, according to research led by Dr. Dawn Hershman, associate professor of medicine and epidemiology at Columbia’s Mailman School of Public Health. The study included more than 5,500 women ages 50 or older who had surgery to remove their breast cancer and were prescribed drugs called aromatase inhibitors. Findings are published online in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.


Although these drugs significantly reduce the risk of recurrence of breast cancer, many women do not take their medications as directed, according to the researchers. Women who took generic aromatase

inhibitors were 50 percent more likely to adhere to their drug therapy than those who took brand-name versions, which are much more expensive. “Cost is not the only reason. But it can intensify other factors such as side effects. Up to 40 percent of women taking aromatase inhibitors experience joint stiffness. If you add a high co-payment to the mix, that’s often enough to make them discontinue therapy,” said Dr. Hershman.

Mailman School co-authors are Dr. Alfred Neugut, Myron Studner Professor of Cancer Research and professor of epidemiology, and Dr. Grace Hillyer, assistant professor of epidemiology.