Your Money or Your Life: Patient on $50,000-a-Week Cancer Drug Fears Leaving Behind Huge Medical Debt

by | Feb 14, 2023 | Health

After several rounds of treatment for a rare eye cancer — weekly drug infusions that could cost nearly $50,000 each — Paul Davis learned Medicare had abruptly stopped paying the bills.

That left Davis, a retired physician in Findlay, Ohio, contemplating a horrific choice: risk saddling his family with huge medical debt, if he had to pay those bills from the hospital out-of-pocket, or halt treatments that help keep him alive.

“Is it worth bankrupting my family for me to hang around for a couple of years?” Davis pondered. “I don’t want to make that choice.”

How much Davis will end up owing for his care remains unclear. One of the hospitals that has administered the costly drug is appealing Medicare’s initial payment denials. And the family might not even know their total balance until Medicare rejects all the appeals.

But the uncertainty has compounded the stress of living with an aggressive cancer.

Davis, 71, was diagnosed in November 2019 with uveal melanoma, which afflicts eye tissue and is “one of the rarest tumors on the planet,” he said.

The cancer spread from his eye to his liver, which typically proves fatal within a year. He was told a new rare-disease drug called Kimmtrak offered the only hope for prolonging his life.

Approved by the FDA in January 2022 as the “first and only” treatment for metastatic uveal melanoma, Kimmtrak has kept his tumor …

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