The New York Times ran a terrific story on April 15 about the dilemma facing cancer patients as more and more oral cancer therapies come on the market, replacing conventional intravenous cancer treatments. While the good news is that progress is being made in the development of more effective, better-targeted cancer drugs in pill and capsule form, freeing patients—especially time-constrained working women—from the inconvenience of frequent trips to the hospital or clinic to be hooked up to an IV bag for possibly hours at a time, a disproportionate cost of these oral drugs is being passed on to the patient.
According to the Times, many insurance companies are refusing to pay the full cost of oral drugs because, while therapies infused at a doctor’s office or clinic are usually covered as a medical benefit, pills are typically covered by prescription drug plans, which can carry high co-payments. The state of Oregon has already passed a law requiring insurance companies to provide equivalent coverage for both oral and IV cancer drugs and other states are looking into passing similar laws. If you want to get involved in solving this problem, contact your state government or federal congressional representative, you can find a listing of representatives from your state and their contact information by going to the U.S. House of Representatives website at House.gov/writerep; or visit the National Patient Advocate Foundation website at Patientadvocate.org.