chemotherapy cost in india

Among the first reactions after a cancer diagnosis is that the patient and his or her family wondering about the cost of chemotherapy treatment. Apart from surgery, radiation, immunotherapy and hormone therapy, chemotherapy is a preferred form of treating cancer.

Chemotherapy Cost in India

The average cost for chemotherapy depends on a range of parameters including:

  1. Type of drugs to be used

  2. Dosage and frequency of chemo cycle

  3. Location for chemo: physician’s office, hospital or clinic

Apart from this, the cost of chemotherapy treatment will also depend on the city the treatment is done in, cost of accommodation, travel and meals for the patient and caregiver (in case treatment is not opted for in the city of residence), type of hospital, kind of room opted for and additional facilities offered at the hospital.

Treatment in a metro will cost more, as the associated cost of living is higher, but at the same time, the chances of getting more experienced doctors and better facilities is higher in larger cities and metros.

The stage at which the cancer is also affects chemotherapy cost in India. For example, if cancer has been detected in the early stages, only a few cycles of chemotherapy may be required. But if detected in the more advanced stages, aggressive chemotherapy might be required, increasing the average cost of chemotherapy.

Chemotherapy cost in India is also affected by the quality and type of drugs used. Generic drugs normally cost lesser when compared to drugs imported from foreign countries.

While each patient is different, experts opine that cancer care can “cost as low as Rs. 2.5 lakh for six months of treatment, with some of the lowest priced generic drugs in the world, to as high as Rs. 20 lakh, with novel drugs and targeted medicines.”

Insurance And Chemotherapy

India has around 2.5 million people living with cancer. Chemotherapy cost without insurance can be quite prohibitive. In fact, an international cancer research project, Globocan 2012, found that among cancer claims from insurance companies, 1 in 5 is from individuals aged between 36 and 45 years. Additionally, as is to be expected, a family battling cancer spends much higher than a normal household. This was corroborated by a 2004 study ‘The economic burden of cancer on Indian households’ by Anup Karan, Ajay Mahal, Victoria Y. Fan and Michael Engelgau, which found that, “expenditures incurred by cancer-affected households annually is equivalent to 36% to 44% of annual household expenditures of matched controls.” It also found that “cancer-affected households also had significantly higher rates of borrowing and asset sales for financing patient care.”   

The National Sample Survey Office has found that more than 80% Indians are not covered under any health insurance schemes.

A rise in the increase of cancer cases has prompted insurance companies to roll out products specific to cancer.

How to Plan For Chemotherapy

An illness like cancer can mean the loss of income along with prolonged hospitalisation and medical care. This will necessitate a change in lifestyle. Keeping in mind chemotherapy cost in India, a regular health plan, whether individual or family floater, does not work very well. A Critical Illness policy is what is required to tide over the cost of chemotherapy treatment. Such a plan also covers other conditions like heart problems, diabetes, kidney and liver-related illnesses.

If you have a family history of cancer or are a heavy smoker or tobacco user, you fall in the high-risk category of individuals likely to get cancer. In such a case, do opt for a plan dedicated to cancer care. Before opting for such a plan, go for a comprehensive health screening. Follow it up with regular health check-ups as mandated by your physician.

Incidences of cancer are more common today than a decade ago. At the same time, rapid developments in medicine and science have resulted in higher numbers of people combatting the disease successfully. Since chemotherapy cost without insurance is higher, it is advisable to know about the average cost for chemotherapy and then plan so as to cover chemotherapy cost with insurance.

How Can You Further Reduce The Cost of Chemotherapy

Most of the times hospitals and doctors offer you packages and mention the total expenses per chemo cycle to you. These expenses include drug expenses as well as doctor fees and hospital charges.

Once you know what chemotherapy drugs have been prescribed to you, try and find out some local wholesalers or distributors. You can purchase the same drugs directly from them at much lower cost. While most doctors would not object to buying drugs on your own, some major hospitals might discourage you from doing so. Nevertheless, this avoids some significant margins in the distribution chain and you can save up to almost 30% - 35% per chemo cycle. Certainly worth trying!