In October, IMF Nurse Leadership Board member, Elizabeth Bilotti, RN, MSN, APRN, BC at the John Theurer Cancer Center at Hackensack University Medical Center, testified before the Senate Budget and Appropriations Committee in support of S 1834/ A 2666, the oral chemotherapy access bill.
“I don’t think I went into the situation with an understanding of the reality. At first I forgot that I was speaking to politicians and not people who have a firm understanding of healthcare. They only know what people tell them and what they have the opportunity to read,” Elizabeth said.
She explained to the committee that over 25% of drugs in the oncology clinical pipeline are oral agents. And that in the last decade, 2 of the 3 drugs that have received FDA approval for the treatment of multiple myeloma have been oral and have nearly doubled the overall survival rates.
Elizabeth emphasized the economic and psychosocial impact the use of oral chemotherapy agents has when compared to IV or injected administration. There is a reduction in day-to-day life disruptions for the patient and caregiver because they are not required to take off of work to visit a clinic for IV administration. Time out of work can have a significant impact on both the economic status of the family, as well as the psychological impact of a shift in roles and family dynamic.
Although oral chemotherapy agents are expensive, Elizabeth clarified that IV agents are as well and that the savings associated with oral administration include less frequent office visits, no cost to administer the drug, and less time away from work for patients and caregivers.
Elizabeth told the committee that because of the availability of additional agents, providers now have the opportunity to tailor the therapy to the individual patient. Due to the disparity in coverage between oral and IV chemotherapy and the high out of pocket cost for oral chemotherapy, the provider and the patient are put in a very difficult position. Limited access to treatment due to cost should not be the reason a patient is unable to receive the appropriate therapy to extend his/her life and either improve or maintain quality.
“I think the biggest impact I made was to help them understand that oral chemotherapy agents are not expensive equivalents, but actually alternatives. And, that the IV agents may not be the best choice for a particular patient, under a particular set of circumstances. Having the oral agents helps in our quest to provide effective, personalized medicine,” she concluded.
S 1834 / A 2666 passed the Senate in December with a 37-2 vote. It has been received in the Assembly where it awaits a vote.
THANK YOU and congratulations to Elizabeth for her hard work and for being our first Advocate of the Month of 2012!
If you are not yet an IMF advocate, please sign up here.