ACS CAN Testimony: Cancer patients need better access to all chemo options

March 23, 2018

This week ACS CAN participated in a chemotherapy informational hearing at the State Capitol on the unequal cost cancer patients incur for oral (pill and liquid) versus intravenous (IV) chemotherapies on Idaho’s state-based health care plans.


As targeted oral chemotherapy advances, it is apparent that the most effective or, in some cases, only form of treatment will also come with an increased price tag. State Director, Luke Cavener, shared that ACS CAN is committed to finding a solution so cancer patients don’t unfairly bear the burden of this cost. Dr. Dan Zuckerman, St. Luke’s Medical Director, pointed out that medical expenses and, more specifically, a cancer diagnosis is the single greatest factor in personal bankruptcy.


Cancer policy consultant, Zina Cary, noted that in some cases the intravenous chemotherapy is costlier than the oral version. Specifically, Cyramza, an intravenous chemotherapy for colorectal cancer, costs approximately $183,000 while the oral chemotherapy Stivarga is closer to $37,000. The important take away was that cancer patients should have access to the most effective treatment as prescribed by their doctor regardless of the cost.


As an oncologist, Dr. Zuckerman understands that cancer patients have difficulty advocating for themselves in the middle of a very challenging diagnosis. These patients are often very ill, sometimes dying, and they are more narrowly focused on making it through the day. Therefore, it is necessary to pass an oral chemotherapy parity law in the state to make it easier for a patient to afford the drug that is best for them.


Notable attendees included Senator Heider, largely responsible for organizing the hearing. Also, Idaho Department of Insurance Director, Dean Cameron, and representatives of the Senate and House Health and Welfare Committees, the Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee, and the House Business Committee.  


All attendees are focused on ensuring cancer patients can access the most effective treatment in the quickest and most affordable manner. ACS CAN will take the opportunity to meet with stakeholders outside of the legislative session to identify the best approach for safeguarding oral chemotherapy parity in Idaho on behalf of the many cancer patients, survivors, and caregivers throughout the state.