New Study Finds Cancer-Related Anxiety and Depression are Costing Medicare $5B Annually

Blue Note Therapeutics, Inc.

Blue Note Therapeutics today announced results from a study providing the largest and most comprehensive assessment to date of the impact of cancer-related anxiety and depression on healthcare costs of elderly patients. The study, which included over 230,000 Medicare patients, found that the incremental healthcare costs of cancer-related anxiety and depression are estimated to be nearly $17,500 per patient annually. This corresponds to a greater than 75 percent premium on the cost of cancer care for patients with anxiety and depression compared to those without. 

"The stress and anxiety I experienced during my cancer care felt so heavy at times, and that was further complicated by my fear that I would not be able to support my family. I was the sole breadwinner and was responsible for paying my daughter's college tuition," said Ricki Fairley, CEO, Touch, the Black Breast Cancer Alliance and Patient Advisor to Blue Note Therapeutics. "I hope for those newly diagnosed that they are able to access and benefit from tools and resources to help their mental health. Emotional symptoms related to cancer should be treated with the same attention as physical symptoms."

Fairley's experience is common among those living with cancer. Data from the study show that one in three Medicare beneficiaries newly diagnosed with cancer have co-occurring anxiety or depression. This is leading to over $5 billion a year in U.S. government healthcare expenditures. 

"We know well that cancer impacts not only the physical but the emotional health of patients. Our study findings highlight the magnitude of this unmet need and the material resource utilization on our healthcare system," said Michael Malecki, head of access and reimbursement, Blue Note Therapeutics. "We are hopeful this will spur payers and policymakers to take action in support of treating the whole person experiencing cancer, and ultimately improve health outcomes."

The study included patients who were at least 66-years old and newly diagnosed with breast, prostate, colorectal, melanoma or lung cancer between 2013 and 2017. Based on the timing of the first anxiety or depression diagnosis, each patient was characterized into one of three categories: no anxiety or depression at any point, pre-existing anxiety or depression, or newly diagnosed anxiety or depression. The monthly average Medicare costs over the study period were assessed, and the effect of pre-existing anxiety or depression and newly onset anxiety or depression were estimated, as compared to no anxiety or depression, on the magnitude of healthcare costs increasing after cancer diagnosis. The study was conducted in collaboration with PRECISIONheor.

The full results of the study, Incremental Healthcare Costs of Anxiety and Depression in Medicare Beneficiaries with Cancer, are being presented during the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) 2022 Annual Conference Virtual Poster Session. Blue Note is building upon these findings with additional health economic and clinical studies, including interventional studies to measure the ability to reduce these incremental costs.

About Cancer-Related Distress

There are about 18 million cancer patients and survivors in the United States today.1 Nearly half of all cancer patients experience psychosocial distress, anxiety, or depression.2 If left untreated, these feelings can lower a cancer survivor's quality of life and may negatively affect survival.3 The National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) has established guidelines for the delivery of mental health care services in oncology, which include screening patients for signs of distress and implementing a treatment plan to address these needs with a mental health care specialist.4 Unfortunately, fewer than half of patients who experience cancer-related distress, which can be defined as any unpleasant feeling, emotion, or experience that affects a patient's quality of life or ability to cope with cancer diagnosis and treatment, are referred to mental health care specialists.5,6 Prescription digital therapeutics designed to treat cancer-related distress can help close this cancer treatment gap.

About Blue Note Therapeutics

Blue Note Therapeutics is a prescription digital therapeutics company singularly dedicated to serving patients suffering from cancer. We aim to make treatment accessible to any cancer patient, at any time, by merging deep scientific and clinical expertise, neuroscience, and digital innovation. Working closely with cancer research and patient communities, we are developing a pipeline of clinically validated prescription digital therapeutics to help reduce anxiety, depression, and other forms of cancer-related distress. For more information, visit


PRECISIONheor is a full-service, research consulting firm comprised of 100 researchers with expertise in health economics, epidemiology, biostatistics, medicine, the social sciences, and health services research. We provide rigorous evidence synthesis, economic modeling, and real-world data and analytic solutions to pharma and medical device clients to support the development and successful commercialization of novel healthcare innovations. 

About Prescription Digital Therapeutics 

Prescription digital therapeutics (PDTs) are a therapeutic class of medical devices that use U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approvable software to treat diseases and conditions, such as anxiety and depression related to cancer diagnosis and treatment. Similar to prescription medicines, PDTs must demonstrate safety and efficacy in randomized clinical trials prior to their approval by the FDA.

Media Contact 

Kim King 



1 American Cancer Society. Cancer Facts & Figures 2022. 

2 Mehnert A, Hartung TJ, Friedrich M, et al. One in two cancer patients is significantly distressed: Prevalence and indicators of distress. Psychooncology. 2018;27:75-82.

3 Wang, Y. H., Li, J. Q., Shi, J. F., Que, J. Y., Liu, J. J., Lappin, J. M., … & Bao, Y. P. (2020). Depression and anxiety in relation to cancer incidence and mortality: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studies. Molecular psychiatry, 25(7), 1487-1499. 

4 National Comprehensive Cancer Network. Distress Management, Version 3.2019, NCCN Clinical Practice Guidelines in Oncology in: Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network Volume 17 Issue 10 (2019) (

5 OncoLink. What is Cancer Related Distress? 

6 American Cancer Society. Cancer Treatment & Survivorship Facts & Figures 2019-2021.

Source: Blue Note Therapeutics, Inc.