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'The social cost for cancer patients in Italy' ~ by Prof Antonio Giordano (Sbarro Institute / SHRO)

Updated: Jun 23, 2023

The social cost for cancer patients in Italy

The onset of cancer is a medical and social phenomenon with serious socioeconomic repercussions. The health system can and must consider integrating health care into the social structure to support the family's commitment to providing the sick with all necessary financial support, and rebalancing public and family resources, which are severely taxed. This has to be done in addition to providing health care during the acute phase of a disease.

After the first phase, the second phase lasts for years due to longer patient survival associated with the improved efficacy of treatments. However, although there is equal access and support from the national health system, the second phase is still expensive. It is during this phase that the “inequalities are intolerable” between those who ‘can’ and ‘cannot’ afford the use of private health facilities, where it is minimized the time to diagnose recurrence and possibly makes a significant difference in patient survival.

There is an important territorial “gap” concerning fast access for all patients and an increasing reliance on the private sector, which penalizes a portion of the population, particularly the poorest segment. They are indeed helped but with long administrative processes, this delay is unfavorable in terms of disease progression. The average yearly social cost for cancer patients who have been diagnosed for at least five years is estimated at 34,210 euros, with a per capita cost of 17,483 euros, which is added to costs incurred by the National Health Service.

In some regions where there is autonomy and diversified management in health, the unfair resetting of the ticket for some oncological services is a problem. This practice makes a distinction between virtuous and attentive vs deficient and territorially disadvantaged regions regarding the promptness of interventions on the oncology front. Patients in Calabria, Molise, and Abruzzo are therefore compelled to relocate. In reality, only four regions—Lombardy, Piedmont, Friuli Venezia-Giulia, Marche, and the autonomous province of Bolzano—immediately aligned with the AIFA indications, resulting in prompt availability of licensed pharmaceuticals. New product release is delayed in all other regions due to additional bureaucratic hurdles.

This is a gap that must be absolutely eliminated. The “time” factor is of vital importance, and bureaucracy and administrative processes must not slow things down. Faster access and a difference in the “cost of survival” for cancer patients can be made possible by investments supporting therapies and equipment for doctors.

This article was first published in La Voce Di New York by Prof Antonio Giordano, click here to read.

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Professor Antonio Giordano, M.D., Ph.D. is the Founder and Director of Sbarro Health Research Organization based at the College of Science and Technology, Temple University, Philadelphia. Connect with him on his social media channels to follow more updates: (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram)

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