Meghan’s Maryland Testimony

Testimony of Meghan Buzby
Director, US Advocacy, The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF)
Maryland Senate Finance Committee
SB 641: The Kathleen A. Mathias Oral Chemotherapy Improvement Act of 2014

Increasing Affordable Access to Oral Chemotherapies:
Saving Lives & Improving Quality of Life for Cancer Patients

I offer the following testimony on behalf of The International Myeloma Foundation (IMF), in support of SB 641: The Kathleen A. Mathias Oral Chemotherapy Improvement Act of 2014 and thank you Chair Middleton, Vice Chair Astle, all members of the Senate Finance Committee, and our Senate bill sponsor, Senator James Mathias, for the opportunity to share the IMF’s perspective on this important issue.

The IMF is the oldest and largest foundation in the world, dedicated to improving the quality of life of myeloma patients. The IMF is working collaboratively with a patient-centered coalition representing cancer patients, health care professionals, and cancer care centers in Maryland. Together we are focused on ensuring affordable access to anticancer regimens including oral chemotherapy treatments

The IMF strongly supports SB 641, which will close the loop on a bill approved by the Maryland legislature in 2012, to require insurers in Maryland to cover oral anticancer therapies at a rate equal to intravenous, or IV, treatments. When the bill originally passed, it excluded health plans that provide essential health benefits, leaving untold numbers of Maryland residents without equitable coverage for their anticancer medications. This bill fixes that problem. Currently, patients taking oral anticancer treatments typically have much higher out-of-pocket expenses than those receiving them intravenously. To date, 27 states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws to require equal coverage of oral chemotherapies. Important Note: The IMF was very involved in the 2012 coalition, but pulled its support for the bill when the amendment to exclude plans that provide essential health benefits, was included.

The IMF is working to ensure cancer patients have appropriate access to a broad range of approved and medically accepted anticancer regimens including oral, intravenous, and injected drugs. We believe that every cancer patient should have access to the treatments recommended by their physician and that no patient should have to struggle with cost discrimination based on the type of therapy provided or the mechanism of delivery.

Research efforts to find more effective treatments are robust and ongoing. Treatments are currently available for a range of cancers such as breast, multiple myeloma (MM), and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML), helping to greatly extend life and dramatically increase a patient’s quality of life. While we have seen dramatic and important advances in treatments for these cancers (and others) that enable patients to live long, full lives, remissions are not always permanent and additional treatment options are essential.

To demonstrate how complicated cancer treatments can be, I’d like to briefly outline a standard course of treatment for patients fighting multiple myeloma. Multiple myeloma (or myeloma) is a cancer of plasma cells in the bone marrow. It is called “multiple” because the cancer can occur at multiple sites in multiple bones. At any one time there are over 100,000 myeloma patients undergoing treatment for their disease in the United States. There is no cure for myeloma, however, it is highly treatable given the latest advancements in research and drug development.

Treatments for myeloma include five targeted anticancer therapies – two injectable treatments and three orally administered drugs – as well as stem cell transplants. Many myeloma patients use what is known as “combination therapy”—treating the cancer with at least two of these drugs simultaneously. Myeloma is a recurring disease, so patients typically cycle through all of these treatment options as they attempt to control their cancer. For this reason, it is critical that myeloma patients have equal access to ALL treatments, orally administered and intravenously or subcutaneously (injected) administered drugs. This level of complicated therapies is not limited to myeloma, and is the experience of patients battling a range of other cancers.

As a result of ongoing research and a strong commitment to improving treatments that enhance and extend life, researchers are continually identifying new and more effective therapies for cancers. With nearly 30% of the new therapies in the research pipeline coming in a form administered to the patient by mouth, oral anticancer treatments are truly the wave of the future.

To level the playing field for cancer patients, insurers that cover the essential health benefits in Maryland should cover the cost of oral treatments as they do IV chemotherapy, ensuring that no matter how treatment is administered, cancer patients have access to the best possible care at a price they can afford.

Thank you all for your time and consideration today and the IMF looks forward to working with you as you move forward on this issue.

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