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Bill signed on campus lowers cost of cancer drugs​​​​​​​

By Jim Goodwin
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PhotoS By Jerry Naunheim Jr.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signs legislation Wednesday, March 19, at the Center for Advanced Medicine that increases the affordability and accessibility of oral chemotherapy medications. Joining him are (from left): Helen Chesnut, executive director of Susan G. Komen St. Louis; state Rep. Sheila Solon, of Blue Springs, who helped pass the bill; Mary Pillsbury Wainwright, a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society fundraiser and volunteer; Debbie Kersting, executive director of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society's Gateway Chapter; JoAnn Shaw, BJC HealthCare vice president and chief learning officer; and John DiPersio, MD, PhD, deputy director of Siteman Cancer Center.

 

Cancer patients with insurance could pay less for chemotherapy pills under a new law that takes effect Jan. 1.

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon signed the legislation on Wednesday and participated in a bill-signing ceremony at the Center for Advanced Medicine on the Washington University Medical Center campus. Senate Bill 668, also known as the “oral chemotherapy parity bill,” limits many patients’ out-of-pocket costs for oral chemotherapy medication to $75 for a 30-day supply. Currently, they can pay thousands per month.

“For the people this bill touches, it will have a dramatic effect and make a lifesaving difference,” Nixon said.

He was joined by JoAnn Shaw, BJC HealthCare vice president and chief learning officer; John DiPersio, MD, PhD, deputy director of Siteman Cancer Center; patients and their families; and representatives of the American Cancer Society, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Susan G. Komen, which pushed for the bill’s passage.

Currently, most insurance companies classify oral chemotherapy as a prescription drug benefit, rather than a medical benefit, as intravenous chemotherapy is considered. The result has been much higher costs for patients taking chemotherapy pills, which can be administered at home, than it is for intravenous chemotherapy provided in a medical setting.

DiPersio, a bone marrow transplant specialist at Siteman, said the legislation’s effects cannot be underestimated. In addition to cost savings, patients will have greater access to novel drugs available only in pill form, he said.

Due to the prohibitive cost of the pills, “the bill is something that many of our patients have been literally dying for, for many years,” DiPersio said. “We have developed oral chemotherapy drugs and oral targeted therapies, which ironically could not be accessed by the citizens of Missouri. So this is a great day.”

Shaw said much of the credit for the law’s passage goes to such patient advocacy groups as the American Cancer Society, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and Susan G. Komen.

“Let me conclude by giving you my personal, heartfelt thanks,” said Shaw, who is a cancer survivor, “and my gratitude as a grateful patient on behalf of all patients battling cancer. Thank you so very much.”

Nixon also thanked the researchers and medical care providers at Washington University Medical Center for their hard work and dedication.

“When you’re this close to excellence, I think sometimes people drive by going down Kingshighway and don’t realize the world-class things that are happening right here in this city, in this complex,” Nixon said. “And it is just stunning what is going on here with the help of BJC, Siteman, Wash. U. and all of the affiliated organizations.”

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Spectators watch the bill-signing ceremony.

 

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DiPersio is interviewed after the bill-signing ceremony.

 

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Lance Horner of Cassville, Mo., holds his daughter, Loren Horner, 1, who has acute myeloid leukemia, during the bill-signing ceremony. State Rep. Sheila Solon, of Blue Springs, stands to the right.

 
MEDIA CONTACTS
Jim Goodwin
Associate Director of Cancer News
(314) 286-0166
jgoodwin@wustl.edu
EXPERTS @ WUSTL
John DiPersio
Chief of the Division of Oncology