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Cancer-Drug Legislation Would Reduce Costs for Thousands of Patients

March 6, 2013 - 6:00pm

Too many Floridians are facing a frightening life-or-death choice every day: either go deep into debt to pay for a lifesaving cancer treatment taken by mouth, or take a not-as-effective drug that costs much less.

The troubling truth is that cancer drugs can cost more, depending on how theyre administered.

Thats patently unfair, according to a couple of state lawmakers who want to put an end to huge differences in prices for drugs taken orally and intravenously. They are championingthe Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, SB 422 in the Senate and HB 301 in the House.

Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, and Rep. Debbie Mayfield, R-Vero Beach, say cancer patients typically pay a $30 co-pay for IV cancer medications. But the cost for the same oral drug might cost thousands of dollars a month.

Sometimes the IV version is not available. That happened to Luke Webb, faced with a $7,000 monthly bill for oral chemotherapy.

He is pleading with lawmakers to pass the bill that would require insurers to offer their IV and oral cancer treatments at the same price.See the video clip below.

Please dont restrict access to these medications. Please treat them the same as IV medications and its patients like me who are calling on those in the state of Florida with power, those standing around me, to do what they can. They have the power to make the changes, to change these policies and to remember patients are counting them.

We will take nothing but yes for an answer to make sure that we provide an opportunity for folks to do what they need to do without worrying that they cannot afford the medication that they so desperately need to save their lives.

The legislation would not tell insurers to offer new cancer coverage, but would require them not to charge more for oral treatments.

Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance reporter/videographer.

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