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Patients Equal Access Coalition: "It's Time to Make Cancer Care Fair For All Americans"


Advocates, health care providers educate lawmakers on H.R.1409, the "Cancer Treatment Fairness Act"

WASHINGTON, Nov. 8, 2017 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Today, representatives from the Patients Equal Access Coalition and the International Myeloma Foundation along with Representatives Leonard Lance (R-NJ 7th District) and Brian Higgins (D-NY 26th District) hosted an informational Congressional briefing on H.R. 1409, the Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2017. Lance and Higgins, co-sponsors of the legislation, led the day's discussion along with patients and health care providers.

H.R. 1409 is aimed at bringing equitable cost sharing to all available anti-cancer treatments, regardless of the form in which they are delivered to the patient.  Currently, traditional IV chemotherapy is covered under insurers' medical benefit plan, typically resulting in small co-pays for patients.  Oral anti-cancer treatments are typically covered under an individual's prescription drug benefit, and often a large percentage of that cost is passed on to the patient from the insurer. For many patients, the cost burden is so large that they can't afford the treatment, leaving them with no option to battle their disease.

H.R. 1409 would level that playing field by ensuring health plans that provide cost-sharing for anti-cancer treatments also provide equitable cost-sharing for self-administered anti-cancer medication at a cost no less favorable than the cost of IV, port administered, or injected anticancer medications. 

43 states and the District of Columbia have passed similar legislation that puts these protections in place for health insurance plans that are regulated on the state level. H.R. 1409 would apply these protections to insurance plans that are federally regulated.

Kathy Hawkins, a Pennsylvania resident and volunteer with the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, has experienced high out of pocket costs for medications that keep her cancer at bay and her insurance plan would be impacted by this legislation.

"I'll never forget the feeling the first time I went to pick up my medication, expecting a $50 co-pay, just to be told by my pharmacist that my cost would be nearly $2,000 a month," said Hawkins.  "We have insurance for a reason, and it's not fair for patients to have to choose between paying their mortgage, or paying for their medicine. I am grateful to Representatives Lance and Higgins for standing up for cancer patients across the country."

Oral anticancer medications are used to treat a range of cancers including blood, ovarian, breast and lung, among others. Many oral anti-cancer medications do not have IV or injected alternatives and are the only option for some cancer patients.

"We are encouraged with the progress in recent years to make cancer care fair for those under state plans across the country," said Robin Levy, Senior Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for the International Myeloma Foundation and Chair of the Patients for Equal Access Coalition.  "But it's time to bring equitable cost-sharing to Americans under federally regulated plans.  Our coalition represents tens of thousands of Americans who will be helped by this bill."

Sarah Hudson-DiSalle, PharmD, RPh, an oncology pharmacist from The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center -James Cancer Center in Columbus, OH, has seen first-hand the need for H.R.1409. 

"Each day my pharmacy medication assistance program coordinators are seeing cases where patients are left with no choice but to pay huge out of pocket costs.  We do what we can to help each of them, but this is important legislation that would allow our patients to concentrate on getting well, not how they are going to afford their next treatment," said Dr. Hudson-DiSalle.

"The future for myeloma and cancer in general, is bright. We are making meaningful differences in our patients' lives. A chemotherapy-free, all-oral, highly-effective and well tolerated regimen is the holy grail for any cancer.  In myeloma, we are actually very close to this goal, said Dr. Pallawi Torka, Roswell Park Cancer Institute, Assistant Professor of Oncology, Co-Program Director, Hematology Oncology Fellowship Program, Lymphoma & Myeloma Division.  "But I would like to add 'affordable' among the virtues of a perfect regimen. While the problem of financial toxicity is multifactorial and needs to be tackled on multiple fronts, I truly believe that H.R. 1409- the Cancer Drug Parity Act of 2017 will go a long way in solving this issue."

H.R. 1409 currently has 110 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.

Contact: Robin Levy
Phone: 201-220-9137

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SOURCE Patients Equal Access Coalition

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