Lawmakers are considering a bill that would provide cancer patients more access to affordable treatments.
Oral chemotherapy drugs are currently classified differently than traditional chemo administered intravenously. Due to the classification difference, patients across the country are not being reimbursed for oral therapies under their health coverage.
Roswell Park Cancer Institute Associate Professor of Oncology Dr. Eunice Wang says the disparity is causing many patients to opt out of treatment altogether because of the cost.
“That is an atrocity, in my mind, that my patients cannot get adequate cancer treatment because their chemotherapy happens to be given in pills as opposed to IV,” said Wang.
Wang says the oral chemotherapy bill is a no brainer. She says the pill form of treatment is cheaper than intravenous chemo because patients don’t need to make trip to the hospital for treatment.
“The chemotherapy that we’re giving through an IV often tends to be pretty toxic chemo. It makes your hair fall out, it can make you ill, and it can lead to hospitalization and low blood count. The chemotherapy pills that we give can really extend people’s lives and give them back their lives,” said Wang.
Patients can pick up oral chemo treatment with a prescription at a pharmacy like they do blood pressure or cholesterol medication.
Rep. Brian Higgins supports the oral chemotherapy parity legislation. He says it will empower patients to decide on their course of treatment.
“My hope is that the insurance industry can keep pace with the science to ensure that when new discoveries are made in cancer therapy, that they’re available to as many people as possible,” said Higgins.