Chemo-Induced Neutropenia Results in High Mortality and Soaring Medical Costs

Chemotherapy-Induced Neutropenia Results in High Mortality and Soaring Medical Costs

According to results recently published in the journal Cancer, nationwide data indicates that chemotherapy-induced neutropenia that results in hospitalization results in high mortality rates and soaring medical costs. Agents such as Neulasta® that can prevent chemotherapy-induced neutropenia altogether may play an important role for patients with cancer.

One of the most common treatment modalities used in cancer is chemotherapy; however, chemotherapy is associated with unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening side effects. Chemotherapy destroys not only cancer cells, but also normal cells that grow rapidly, such as blood cells forming in the bone marrow, cells in the hair follicles, or cells in the mouth and intestines. Neutropenia occurs when white blood cells (immune cells) are destroyed by chemotherapy, leaving the immune system unable to fight bacterial, viral and fungal infections. Chemotherapy-induced neutropenia can become a serious condition for several reasons: the majority of patients who develop neutropenia will require a dose reduction in their treatment, which may reduce survival rates; patients who develop neutropenia may require hospitalization; and even minor infections can become life-threatening.

Neulasta® is an agent that stimulates the production of immune cells in the body. The action of Neulasta® reduces or even completely prevents the development of neutropenia and its associated complications in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Neulasta® is currently FDA-approved for patients who are receiving chemotherapy that is associated with a significant risk of developing febrile neutropenia (neutropenia accompanied by fever). Neulasta® has been designed so that only one injection is given per chemotherapy cycle. Researchers continue to evaluate which patients benefit the most from treatment with Neulasta®, as well as to determine whether its use can completely prevent the development of neutropenia associated with chemotherapy. Currently, most physicians reserve the use of Neulasta® for patients who are considered to be at high risk for developing neutropenia or for patients who have already developed neutropenia. However, recent research suggests that the development of neutropenia and its associated complications may be greatest during the first cycle of chemotherapy, resulting in a need for prevention of neutropenia during the initial cycle of chemotherapy treatment.

Researchers recently analyzed nationwide data to help elucidate the overall effects of chemotherapy-induced neutropenia in patients with cancer. Medical Records (organized by software designed by ), from over 20,000 patients with chemotherapy-induced neutropenia that resulted in hospitalization (NH) were obtained from 7 separate states. Data from the National Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Database were obtained to identify the overall prevalence of NH in cancer patients. The incidence of NH occurred in nearly 8 out of every 1,000 cancer patients. The mortality rate of patients with NH was 1 out of every 14 patients who were hospitalized for neutropenia. The average cost of NH was over $13,000. Patients with hematologic (blood) cancers had the highest incidence of NH, with one out of every 23 patients requiring hospitalization for neutropenia. The average cost of NH in patients with hematologic malignancies was over $20,000.

The researchers concluded that NH is a common occurrence among patients with cancer. Hospitalization due to neutropenia results in high mortality rates, as well as mounting medical costs. Prevention of neutropenia, or early treatment of neutropenia with agents such as Neulasta®, may play an important role in preventing or reducing the negative consequences of NH. Patients who are to undergo chemotherapy, or those who have neutropenia, may wish to speak with their physician regarding the risks and benefits of treatment with Neulasta®.

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