Patients must have access to oral cancer therapies
By Robin Levy
IMF Senior Director, Public Policy & Advocacy
Improving access to lifesaving medications for myeloma patients is a long-standing commitment of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF).
For many years, the IMF Advocacy Team has focused on oral parity legislation, specifically the Cancer Drug Parity Act. This legislation would ensure that orally administered drugs – like many of the drugs used to treat myeloma – are covered by health insurers in the same way that they cover intravenous therapies.
We are happy to share with you the major advancements we have made with this bill.
The IMF-led Coalition to Improve Access to Cancer Care (CIACC) has accomplished record progress with its work to advance oral parity legislation. The Cancer Drug Parity Act was brought up as a solution for patients during the COVID-19 pandemic, which helped make legislators aware of this issue.
We received confirmation from groups representing medical professionals that, in cases where medically appropriate, cancer patients were being transitioned onto orally administered drugs in order to keep them safer at home.
The IMF Advocacy Team led CIACC members in conducting meetings about this issue with Members of the House and Senate, including Leader McConnell’s Office and Leader Pelosi’s Office. Additionally, we sent letters to top policymakers about how the Cancer Drug Parity Act could help patients.
The bill received traction in COVID-19 legislative discussions, but ultimately, was not included in relief packages. Despite this, we were pleased with the increased support. At the end of the last Congress, the bill ended up with 170 House co-sponsors and 19 Senate co-sponsors.
The increased visibility has greatly helped our efforts this Congress, specifically in the Senate, where our bill leads have reported even more traction.
The Cancer Drug Parity Act was reintroduced in the House in July 2021 (H.R.4385) and in the Senate in October 2021 (S.3080); support for both is steadily increasing. We have made significant progress on the legislation since its introduction.
We are already at the same level of support in the Senate as where we ended last Congress. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) and Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS), who are leading the bill in the Senate, have great optimism for the path forward. We are proud of the bipartisan nature of this legislation and the support we have garnered for it so far.
We need your help to advance this bill; there are a few ways you can get involved. If you think this bill will have an impact on your treatment, please contact us at [email protected] to share your story.
Congressional leaders have relayed to us that before they consider moving this bill forward, they need to understand more about how patients are being impacted by the current status quo. This specific bill has an impact on people with federally regulated ERISA insurance plans. If you have private insurance and are not on Medicare, you are likely someone who could benefit from the passage of the Cancer Drug Parity Act.
If you wish to contact your legislators directly or to learn more about our advocacy activities, visit advocacy.myeloma.org. To subscribe to the IMF Advocacy Newsletter, visit subscribe.myeloma.org. To learn more about how you can help, contact our team at [email protected]. We welcome your engagement, questions, and ideas.
(This article was published in the 2022 Spring Edition of the IMF's quarterly publication, Myeloma Today. Read the full publication here.)