Oral Chemotherapy Adherence Course Launching This Month

A new NASW Web education course, “Promoting Adherence with Cancer Oral Medications: The Social Worker’s Role,” will launch this month.

The course, developed by NASW and the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, will be available free of charge on the NASW Professional Education and Training Center website.

The course continues NASW’s focus on professional education in cancer care and was preceded by “Understanding Cancer” and “Understanding Cancer Caregiving,” both of which are already available on NASW’s Web Ed site.

NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark said medical advances and funding streams for oral chemotherapy treatment are on the increase.

“Self-administration of chemotherapy translates into significant challenges for practitioners and clients alike,” she said. “Good communication between client and provider is vital. Social workers have a role to play, as we often serve as facilitators for such transitions of care.”

Stacy Collins, senior practice associate at NASW, said the cancer oral medications course will benefit all social workers.

“The course has information that any social worker can use,” she said. “Most people in the profession will come in contact with someone affected by a cancer diagnosis sooner or later. Moreover, with the increased use of oral cancer medication, many social workers need to assist clients with adherence issues.”

As the baby boom population advances in age, cancer diagnosis and treatment figures are expected to rise in correlation. It is estimated that one in two men and one in three women in the U.S. will receive a cancer diagnosis in their lifetime.

Today, oral drugs can be used to treat certain cancers that previously required a rigorous program of infusion, or intravenous, drug treatment. In fact, a growing number of oncologists are using oral drugs to treat cancer, Collins said. There are more than 20 oral cancer-fighting medications approved for use in the U.S. and dozens more are in development.

The new NASW Web Ed course explains how such medications are prescribed and how they shift responsibility for treatment from the medical professional to the patient and caregivers.

The online course, which is estimated to take two hours, provides 2.0 free CEUs to social workers who successfully complete the online exam.

The course points out that unlike intravenous therapy, there are many adherence concerns with oral drug treatments. Medication adherence is a significant problem in health care. Recent research shows that more than 50 percent of Americans do not take prescription medicine as instructed. The level of adherence in oral medications for cancer is estimated at only 30 percent.

Not taking cancer drugs as prescribed can impede the effectiveness of the medication and can result in unnecessary changes to a patient’s treatment plan, the course explains.

The course also discusses the financial burdens that oral cancer medications can place on patients and families, as well as the changing insurance landscape in oral chemotherapy. For example, IV chemotherapy, typically performed in a doctor’s office, is considered a surgical or medical benefit, whereas oral chemotherapy is a prescription benefit. Insurance companies often have different rules for medical and prescription coverage.

The course also explores other barriers and challenges involved with oral cancer medication adherence and strategies for integrating medication adherence into a person’s life.

Finally, the course lists valuable resources for more information about the topic, including NASW, the National Coalition for Cancer Survivorship, the National Cancer Institute, American Cancer Society and CancerCare.