Oral Chemotherapy Legislation
Ohio has enacted long-sought legislation, SB 99 to create parity in insurance coverage between oral and IV chemotherapy agents. With some conditions, the new law requires insurance plans and Medicaid to cover oral chemotherapy no less favorably than IV chemotherapy agents. The OSUCCC – James has been part of a coalition of patient advocacy groups seeking the law change. Oral therapies covered through pharmacy benefits often cost patients thousands of dollars, whereas IV therapies typically have had minimal co-payments as part of medical benefits. However, many new, targeted therapies are oral. This law will help ensure that treatment decisions are based on what is best for the patient and not the affordability of medications. Governor Kasich signed the bill into law this summer. Niesha Griffith, former director of pharmacy and infusion services for the OSUCCC – James, testified in the Ohio House and Senate in support of the bill.
In addition, Governor Kasich signed into law another piece of legislation supported by the OSUCCC – James. SB 230 prohibits insurers from sending non-self-injectable cancer medications directly to consumers or providing them directly to patients. Previously, patients would receive the medication and be asked to bring toxic chemotherapy agents to their provider for administration; however, the provider could not be assured of the integrity of the medicine. We have opposed the practice due to patient safety concerns. We cannot ensure the chemotherapy agent has been property stored, nor do we know the chain of custody. The new law will ensure patient safety through the appropriate maintenance of the medication. Niesha Griffith, director of pharmacy and infusion services for the OSUCCC – James, testified in the Ohio House and Senate in support of the bill.
Brain Tumor Awareness
At our request, state Sen. Jim Hughes has introduced SB 328, which would declare the first week of May Brain Tumor Awareness Week in Ohio. Working with Vinay Puduvalli, MBBS professor of neurology, we seek to increase awareness of the importance of continued research on brain tumors and support patients and their families dealing with a brain tumor diagnosis. Sen. Hughes has provided sponsor testimony before the Senate Medicaid, Health and Human Services Committee. While that bill is pending, Governor Kasich proclaimed the first week of May 2014, Brain Tumor Awareness Week.
National Institutes of Health Funding
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) is the largest source of funding for biomedical research in the nation and the largest source for our cancer program. Since the doubling of NIH, which ended in 2004, flat funding has resulted in loss of purchasing power against the rate of inflation, approaching 15 percent. The sequester passed as part of the Budget Control Act of 2011 significantly cut NIH funding. Although NIH received $29.9 billion in federal fiscal year 2014, which is $1 billion more than the fiscal 2013 sequester-reduced amount, it is still $714 million (2 percent) below the fiscal 2013 enacted level and 4 percent less than requested by the President. It is critical that NIH funding increase to support innovative medical research, like that at the OSUCCC – James.
Bipartisan groups of representatives and senators have championed additional research funding and have sent appropriations leaders letters supporting increased funding for NIH. A total of 186 House members signed an April 4, 2014, letter supporting increased funding for NIH in fiscal 2015. The letter requests that NIH receive “at least $32 billion” in fiscal 2015. Ohio Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Cleveland), Joyce Beatty (D-Columbus), Steve Stivers (R-Columbus) and Brad Wenstrup (R-Cincinnati) signed the letter of support. A total of 57 senators signed an April 3, 2014, letter requesting the chairs and ranking members of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Labor-HHS subcommittee “maintain a strong commitment” to funding for NIH. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown signed the letter.
National Cancer Institute
The National Cancer Institute (NCI), one of the centers within the NIH, provides critical support to the OSUCCC – James, which has one of only 41 NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Centers in the country. NCI has awarded the OSUCCC – James a Cancer Center Support Grant, which funds, in part, our shared resources. These are a network of specialized services that facilitate an investigator’s ability to conduct cancer research. The OSUCCC –James strongly supports adequate funding for NCI so that the institute can fully fund Cancer Center Support Grants. In addition, the OSUCCC – James investigators receive grant funding from NCI. Future breakthroughs in cancer prevention, detection and treatment rely on federal funding, and additional funding for NIH will bolster NCI as well.