A bill was been filed in the House yesterday in a bi-partisan effort to meet the vital needs of many North Carolinians by improving access to life saving oral cancer medications, some of which are the most effective medications on the market today.
Innovation in the pharmaceutical industry has led to effective medications that were once available only by IV treatment now available in pill form. In addition to these oral chemotherapies being effective methods of treatment, they also provide a tangible improvement to a patient’s quality of life. The ease and convenience of taking oral medication on a schedule is preferable to the time consuming process of hospitalization for intravenous medical treatment.
The goal of House Bill 206, the “North Carolina Cancer Treatment Fairness Act,” is to provide parity for insurance customers when deciding treatment options. In some cases, oral treatment is the only available therapy. Out of pocket expenses for patients prescribed an oral cancer treatment regime are cost prohibitive. In fact, studies show that out of pocket costs greater than $200 were at least three times more likely to choose not to fill their prescriptions than those with costs of $100 or less.
Scientists and Oncologists across the nation recognize the cost savings in total treatment costs for oral therapies over traditional IV medications. Currently, oral cancer drugs can be extremely costly for patients because insurance plan design has not kept pace with advances in chemotherapy treatment. This is unfairly penalizing patients utilizing newly created orally cancer drugs, and it’s time to recognize the industry wide savings that a more broad based distribution of oral cancer therapies can bring to the health care system. A study by Prime Therapeutics, a pharmacy benefits manager for insurance companies, says that “high out-of-pocket costs may have an impact on patient care and therefore long-term costs.”
“Expanding treatment options to cost saving drugs that prove to be extremely effective is the right thing to do for the people of North Carolina,” said Representative David Lewis, the primary sponsor of the bill. “There is no good reason that a person should have to choose to take an IV drug over an oral drug because of a co-pay differential. This bill simply increases access to an effective form of treatment that is often preferable to IV chemotherapy. New research shows that oral chemotherapy is the cornerstone of cancer therapy. In some cases, oral chemotherapy is the only option. We can’t deny our citizens a better quality of life.”
Forty-two other states have already passed some form of chemotherapy parity legislation. The old ‘one size fits all’ cancer treatment adversely affects many families and access to an oral chemotherapy drug would lift the burden of expensive and time consuming treatments.
HB206 awaits committee referrals in the House before any action can be taken on the legislation.