Cancer advocates rally for affordable treatment

Posted at 9:26 AM, May 18, 2016
and last updated 2016-05-18 15:06:32-04

With technology and medication, advancement is quick. One of these is how cancer patients receive their treatments. Instead of having to be hooked to an IV and go to a treatment center, cancer patients can now take pills. One problem with this method is the cost, and the pills are not covered the same as the IV treatment. 

"This hasn’t happened so far because so many of these oral pills are coming through the pipeline," said Tim Johnson, Oncologist RN and Chapter President for the Greater Lansing Oncology Nursing Society. "There are these drugs that help activate your own immune system and help fight the cancer. It goes directly where it needs to go and does what it needs to do without hurting the entire body." 

Tuesday, more than 50 cancer patients, caregivers and family members rallied at the Capitol Building to urge members of the House of Representatives to pass Senate Bill 625, which would make the cancer treatment pill affordable for patients. 

"My cost for a cycle, which was a two-week cycle was $3,100 for a two week supply," said Amy Harvey, a cancer 'Thriver.' "We are advocating with our legislatures to get it that oral chemotherapies are placed on the same level playing field as an IV chemotherapy, which are going through a prescription drug plan and not as a doctor's visit." 

The Bill passed through the Senate, and will go to the House of Representatives to vote on. The Bill proposes having the cost of oral chemotherapy treatment to be on par with that of the IV treatment.  

"When comparing $3,100 for two weeks or compared to IV chemotherapy treatment for $138, it makes a big difference," said Harvey. "It puts an incredible amount of stress on family. How are you going to pay for this, keep a roof over your head and food on your table and live your life. 

"Having a reduced cost for oral chemotherapy is important. Makes life altering decisions and being a cancer patient and worrying about getting to your next appointment and making sure that your kids are taken care of, and everyday life. You shouldn't have to worry about how you are going to afford your medication. You have enough worries in your life." 

If the bill passes, cancer patients will not only have the option to take a treatment that may be better suited to them and financially affordable, but it will allow them to continue their lives instead of spending hours, if not days getting treatment at a facility. 

"When a person gets diagnosed with cancer, it is obviously life altering and crushing," said Johnson. " But that same type of crushing news comes when that person has to look at their finances and figure out how to afford this cancer care. Those two things, together, can really, really diminish a person's quality of life. 

"This oral pill bill will have it so, if it is the first line choice per the oncologist, the expert...and they say this is the best drug for you, an oral pill, and then you find out the insurance is not going to cover the pills. They say sorry you cannot get the pills, even though it is really going to help you get more years on your life, maybe cure your cancer. Now we have to do the second best thing. This bill will make it so they are treated identical [IV treatment and oral treatment]."