Cancer Patients: How to Get Your Medications When You Can’t Afford Them

Helping Cancer Patients Pay for Prescriptions
This page was originally published January 31, 2018 and updated May 28, 2024.

As the costs of cancer drug treatments continue to rise, some patients are either rationing or foregoing medications entirely due to expense. According to recent research, this problem is all too common, and if you’ve ever been diagnosed, this is something you already most likely know.

With some cancer drugs in the $100,000 range, many patients struggle to afford the copays that give them access to the medications they need. The published report, “The financial toxicity of cancer treatment,” highlights the struggles faced by many.

According to the report authors, “Insured patients undergoing cancer treatment and seeking copayment assistance experience considerable subjective financial burden, and they may alter their care to defray out-of-pocket expenses. Health insurance does not eliminate financial distress or health disparities among cancer patients.”

Among the participants included in the study, 42% reported a heavy financial burden, 68% trimmed discretionary spending, 46% spent less on items such as clothing, and 46% used money saved to help with expenses.

To save money, 20% of patients surveyed took less than the doctor’s prescribed amount of their medication, 19% only redeemed part of their prescription at a time, and 24%, or almost a quarter, did not even fill their prescription at all.

These numbers are unacceptable. With so much to deal with physically, cancer patients should not have the added burden of a bankruptcy looming over their head just trying to get and take the medications as prescribed by their oncologist.

This study also highlighted a very important fact: health insurance is not enough for many patients. It simply does not adequately ease the financial burden associated with the ever-rising costs of prescription drugs. Also, we have to do a better job of limiting out-of-pocket maximums for this group and identify those cancer patients who are at greatest financial risk early in the treatment process to provide financial support services before money matters take precedence over care plans.

Free Prescription Assistance Programs for Cancer Patients

Prescription assistance programs are available to combat this huge financial burden placed on cancer patients. These programs are sponsored by drug companies, doctors, patient advocacy organizations, and civic groups and help patients with financial need get free or low-cost medications.

Here is one free program that helps get cancer patients the medications they need:

The Lilly Cares Foundation Patient Assistance Program helps US cancer patients with demonstrated financial need get certain Lilly medications for free. As of this writing, the oncology drugs included in this program are:

  • Alimta® (pemetrexed for injection)
  • Cyramza® (ramucirumab) injection
  • Erbitux® (cetuximab) injection
  • Lartruvo™ (olaratumab) injection
  • Portrazza® (necitumumab) injection
  • Verzenio™ (abemaciclib)

Many more prescription assistance programs are available at no cost to cancer patients in the USA. Applications are available online or over the phone for free. If you are having trouble affording your medications, check out this link for the complete list of free prescription programs for cancer patients.

Free Prescription Programs for Cancer Patients

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Cancer Care News is a non-profit 501(c)(3) sharing evidence-based cancer updates & financial resources for patients & families in the USA. Please share the information you find helpful with others in need.


  1. A family friend worked with the Lilly Cares Foundation to get the treatment she needed. She has been through a lot and knowing that the cost was something she didn’t have to get stressed out over I think greatly helped in her recovery. It is a shame people have to go through all this while trying to beat cancer.

    • Vanessa, we agree! The fight needs to be against cancer not getting the medication needed to get better! Please help us spread the word about these programs; they can help so much when it’s needed most.

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