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breast cancer awareness

Breast Cancer Medication Costs

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Breast-Cancer-Ribbon-Paint-586x1024Breast cancer awareness month has hit it off with a massive pink spread across the world and it’s doing a tremendous amount of work to support those suffering from the disease. There are millions of $$$’s being pledged worldwide, for numerous different cancer charities like Nationalbreastcancer.org, breastcancercare.co.uk and cancer.org. These charities are there to help families and support sufferers but they also help raise awareness of checking breasts regularly and knowing the signs of early breast cancer. Discovering the disease early gives a much better prognosis than discovery in the advanced stages or when the cancer has become metastatic and has spread to other parts of the body.

There have been charity fun runs, head shavings and a bridge full of bras displayed in the US to name but a few imaginative ways of raising awareness. We’re only half way through the month and so far it’s been incredible!

As we are pharmacists, we’d like to take this opportunity to talk about breast cancer medications, in particular, Estrogen/Progesterone receptive positive breast cancers.  For us, raising awareness is not just about getting people to check their breasts more often and understand more about the disease. It’s about helping people treat breast cancer affectively and affordably.

Femara, Nolvadex and Arimidex are 3 of the main breast cancer medication treatments prescribed to patients in the US. They all target cancers stimulated by Estrogen levels but work differently in body and are suitable for different patients. Femara also happens to be in a totally different price bracket to Nolvadex and Arimidex.

Some US insurance companies have even stopped covering breast cancer medication drugs like Femara. Thousands of women already taking Femara have had to switch medication to generic equivalents. The only other alternative was to switch medications or to start paying privately for them. Femara without insurance costs hundreds of $$$’s a month.

We recently received a Femara review from Sherry G. She explained that even though it’s a vital medication for her, the insurance stopped covering it which forced her into paying $600/month for the privilege of taking it. Crazy! She didn’t want to start taking a generic version as it’s such an important medication for her. She certainly did not want to switch medications to something totally different as Femara was working well for her. People at high risk of developing breast cancer (like post-menopausal women) and those trying to treat or prevent breast cancer from occurring, reoccurring or spreading should be given discounts for taking such medications, not vice versa! The cost of treating advanced breast cancer far outweighs the cost of prevention medication!

In the end Sherry took to buying Femara online for a fraction of the price, it was the only way she could get the medication she wanted at a price she could afford. She now pays one fifth of the price at IsraelPharm.com and has never looked back.

So how what is Femara, how does it work and why is it so much more expensive than Nolvadex and Arimidex? The price difference between Femara and Nolvadex/Arimidex can be as much as $500 for a month’s supply!

Femara (Letrozole) is an aromatase inhibitor that helps to prevent the aromatase enzyme from producing Estrogen in post-menopausal women. Hormonal balance and keeping Estrogen dominance under control is a key factor is preventing breast cancer in older women, especially those who have gone through menopause. Many types of breast cancer are stimulated by Estrogen: these cancers are normally referred to as Estrogen receptor positive cancer. The best way to prevent breast cancer or stop it from spreading is by reducing the amount of Estrogen so the cancer has fewer hormones to feed off. Femara reduces the level of Estrogen by blocking the aromatase enzyme from helping the body turn the sex hormones androstenedione and testosterone into Estrogen. Until menopause, the ovaries mainly produce Estrogen by themselves without the need of the aromatase enzyme, it’s only called into action after the ovaries stop doing the job themselves so this medication is only affective in post-menopausal women, whose aromatase enzyme is in action.

Nolvadex (Tamoxifen) is another popular choice of medication for breast cancer partly because it is broad reaching. It’s available to help men and women with advanced breast cancer as well as a preventative treatment for women who are at high risk of developing breast cancer or who are in the early stages of breast cancer. Nolvadex is particularly effective at stopping the spread of metastatic breast cancer (breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body). It can be used alone or as an adjunct therapy, depending on the circumstance and severity of the cancer. Nolvadex is a type of medication called a SERM (Selective Estrogen Receptor Modulator) that works by blocking the effects of Estrogen rather than stopping the Estrogen from being produced.

Arimidex (Anastrozole) also works to treat breast cancers stimulated by the Estrogen hormone. It does this by blocking testosterone from becoming Estrogen so the Estrogen receptor positive cancer is starved of growth stimulation. In postmenopausal women Femara is more effective at preventing Estrogen due to the way the body produced it after menopause but Arimidex can be used very effectively for men and women of younger ages. Instead of targeting the aromatase enzyme from helping produce the Estrogen, it stops the testosterone sex hormone from converting to estrogen instead.

At IsraelPharm.com the cost of Femara is $101, the cost of Nolvadex is $14 and the cost for Arimidex is $89.

So, why the big price difference in these breast cancer medication drugs? Well, Arimidex and Femara both inhibit the production of Estrogen while Nolvadex is a SERM and it just blocks the effect of the Estrogen on the cancer. Prices are based mostly on the amount of time these therapies have been available. Nolvadex was the first drug released long ago and is now off patent and generics are available. This has therefore driven the cost down. The others will come down in price once the patent is up but it’s likely that by then there will be another more targeted expensive treatment available.

 

Whatever your treatment is we hope that it is successful and leads you to a happy and healthy future.

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