Pancreatic enzymes can be key to a pancreatic cancer patient’s wellbeing and quality of life. But correct enzyme use is critical for them to be effective, and the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network (PanCAN) often hears from patients and their families that paying for enzymes can be a challenge.
Insurance coverage, including Medicare, may vary for pancreatic enzymes. There are five FDA-approved pancreatic enzyme products, and insurance companies will often have one brand for which there is a lower copay amount.
Even those with insurance may find themselves in the “donut hole,” or coverage gap, resulting in a large copay that can last for several months.
For those struggling with the cost of enzymes, there are resources to help. PanCAN suggests the following:
- Check your insurance’s prescription formulary to find out if one brand is preferred over another, which should therefore cost less.
- Look into patient assistance programs by visiting the drug manufacturer’s website or NeedyMeds.org.
- If you are on Social Security, apply for the Extra Help plan.
- Contact PanCAN’s Patient Central for additional resources, to help find assistance programs and to talk through your options.
While over-the-counter pancreatic enzyme supplements exist and may seem like a good way to cut costs, they are not recommended for people with pancreatic cancer. Over-the-counter supplements are not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So, they may have inconsistencies between batches, even though manufacturers must ensure their products’ safety. Contamination may also be a concern for over-the-counter pancreatic enzymes, as some are made from animal products.
Prescription enzymes can be expensive, but using them correctly – with meals and snacks – can help alleviate symptoms like indigestion and weight loss. PanCAN strongly recommends that patients have access to pancreatic enzymes and see a registered dietitian. And Patient Central is here to help.