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Open Access Research article

Increased financial burden among patients with chronic myelogenous leukaemia receiving imatinib in Japan: a retrospective survey

Yuko Kodama1*, Ryoko Morozumi2, Tomoko Matsumura1, Yukiko Kishi1, Naoko Murashige1, Yuji Tanaka1, Morihito Takita1, Nobuyo Hatanaka1, Eiji Kusumi1, Masahiro Kami1 and Akihiko Matsui3

Author Affiliations

1 Division of Social Communication System for Advanced Clinical Research, the Institute of Medical Science, University of Tokyo, 4-6-1, Shirokanedai, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-8639, Japan

2 Faculty of Economics, University of Toyama, 3190 Gakufu, Toyama-shi, Toyama, 930-8555, Japan

3 Faculty of Economics, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, 113-0033, Japan

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BMC Cancer 2012, 12:152  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-12-152

Published: 24 April 2012



The financial burden of medical expenses has been increasing for cancer patients. We investigated the relationship between household income and financial burden among patients with chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML) who have been treated with imatinib.


A questionnaire was distributed to 1200 patients between May and August 2009. We retrospectively surveyed their household incomes, out-of-pocket medical expenses, final co-payments after refunds, and the perceived financial burden of their medical expenses in 2000, 2005 and 2008.


A total of 577 patients completed the questionnaire. Their median age was 61 years (range, 15–94). A financial burden was felt by 41.2 % (28 of 68) of the patients treated with imatinib in 2000, 70.8 % (201 of 284) in 2005, and 75.8 % (400 of 528) in 2008. Overall, 182 patients (31.7 %) considered its discontinuation because of the financial burden and 15 (2.6 %) temporarily stopped their imatinib prescription. In 2000, 2005 and 2008, the patients’ median annual household incomes were 49,615 US Dollars (USD), 38,510 USD and 36,731 USD, respectively, with an average currency exchange rate of 104 Yen/USD in 2008. Their median annual out-of-pocket expenses were 11,548, 12,067 and 11,538 USD and their median final annual co-payments were 4,375, 4,327 and 3,558 USD, respectively. Older patients (OR = 0.96, 95 % CI: 0.95–0.98, p ≪ 0.0001 for 1-year increments), and patients with higher household incomes (OR = 0.92, 95 % CI: 0.85–0.99, p = 0.03 for 10,000 USD-increments) were less likely to have considered discontinuing their imatinib treatment. Conversely, patients with higher annual final co-payments (OR = 2.21, 95 % CI: 1.28–4.28, p = 0.004 for 10,000 USD-increments) were more likely to have considered discontinuing their imatinib treatment.


The proportion of CML patients who sensed a financial burden increased between 2000 and 2008. During this period, their annual incomes fell by 13,000 USD, although their medical expenses did not change. Financial support for patients being treated with expensive drugs remains a major problem in Japan.

Economic recession; Hematology; Anticancer drug; Health insurance