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The Financial Barrier to Patient Participation in Clinical Trials

Clinical trials may be the best option for millions of Americans diagnosed with cancer. They not only have the potential to boost and improve a patient's outcome, but they also help to advance medical research. However, some things are standing in the way.

There are many barriers to clinical trials faced by Black and other underrepresented communities. One of those barriers is the financial burden of out-of-pocket costs, some of which are non-medical.

Private health insurance, Medicaid, and Medicare are required to cover the routine medical costs of trial participation. However, there is no coverage for other non-medical out-of-pocket expenses patients may incur, such as gas, parking, food, and lodging.

Research has shown financial burdens can lead to a nearly 30% lower trial participation rate among individuals with an annual family income of less than $50,000. (CISCRP, July 2022)

Insurance Coverage for Clinical Trials
Insurance Coverage for Clinical Trials

When considering a clinical trial, be sure to talk with your healthcare team and insurance company to find out what coverage you have for participating in a clinical trial and what out-of-pocket costs you might expect to pay.

There are options and in some cases, the cost of participating in a clinical trial may be covered by the sponsor of the study.

Always ask questions! There is no wrong question.

Ask if there is a Clinical Trial Navigator or Patient Navigator available. An Independent Patient Advocate specializing in clinical trials can help too.

Professionals in these roles may be able to assist with the following:

  • Finding the best clinical trial for patients based on their goals, diagnosis, past treatments and responses, current physical condition, etc. These factors and others may impact one's eligibility for certain clinical trials.

  • Help patients understand the clinical-trial process, including their rights and obligations as a participant.

  • Determine how a patient's financial situation, insurance coverage, support network, and ability and willingness to travel far distances might impact their choice of clinical trials.

  • Guide patients in their efforts to enroll in a clinical trial, including connecting them with trial sites and more.

No one should have to lose their life because they do not have access to life-saving treatments or there are barriers, such as money and finances.

Don't write yourself off! Instead, advocate for yourself, ask a loved one to advocate on your behalf, or talk with a patient advocate. Don't wait for your doctor to bring up clinical trials. Always ask your doctor about clinical trials early and often.

Let's keep Navigating Cancer TOGETHER!


Talaya, BCPA

The Cancer Doula


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