Thursday, 7 February 2013

One Million Americans with Blood Cancer in Jeopardy of Losing Access to Needed Medications

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

Blood cancer patients with chronic, disabling, and life threatening conditions such as leukemia, non-Hodgkin's and Hodgkin's lymphoma and myeloma are in jeopardy of losing access to critical medications. Some health insurance companies are now placing biologic drugs and certain cancer medications into "specialty tiers" that require patients to pay 20 to 50 percent of drug costs, amounting to hundreds or even thousands of dollars in out-of-pocket costs each month for a single medication. This practice goes against the basic premise of insurance and is causing many patients to underutilize necessary treatment or go without treatment entirely.

The Patients' Access to Treatments Act of 2013 (H.R 460) would limit cost-sharing requirements for medications placed in a specialty tier. The bipartisan legislation is being reintroduced by Rep. David B. McKinley (R-WV) and Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and would make innovative and necessary medications more accessible by reducing excessive out-of-pocket expenses.

"Treating cancer involves accessing a complex and extensive set of health care services including chemotherapy and prescription drugs, among others," says Mark Velleca , MD, PhD, chief policy and advocacy officer at The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. "The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is encouraged that Reps. McKinley and Capps have reintroduced this important bill and continue to advocate that patients with cancer should have access to live-saving treatments."

According to the most recent data available from the National Cancer Institute, there are an estimated 1,012,533 people in the United States who are living with, or are in remission from, leukemia, Hodgkin lymphoma, non-Hodgkin lymphoma or myeloma, with new cases of blood cancer accounting for approximately 9% of all new cancer cases diagnosed annually. Many blood cancer patients are prescribed innovative cancer therapies that are often found on specialty tiers to help treat the disease. Some of these include therapies for patients with chronic myelogenous leukemia such as imatinib, dastatinib, bosutinib, nilotinib and ponatinib; lenalidomide and thalomide for myeloma patients; and rituximab and vorinostat for patients with lymphoma. Moreover, studies have revealed that patients with blood cancers that are treated early with some of these innovative therapies see higher remission rates, lower hospitalizations, and higher five year survival rates.

The Patients' Access to Treatments Act of 2013 is supported by the Coalition for Accessible Treatments. LLS is one of 18 member organizations that have joined the coalition. The Coalition for Accessible Treatments encourages patients and physicians to ask lawmakers to support and cosponsor the Patients' Access to Treatments Act of 2013 (H.R.). Please contact your lawmaker by visiting

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
Headquartered in White Plains, NY, LLS is the world's largest voluntary health agency dedicated to curing leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, while improving the quality of life of patients and their families. LLS is committed to ensuring access to and compliance with the most appropriate, evidence-based treatments for all blood cancer patients. Learn more by visiting or follow LLS on

The Coalition for Accessible Treatments: American Academy of Neurology, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Autoimmune Related Diseases Association, American College of Rheumatology, Arthritis Foundation, Crohn's and Colitis Foundation of America, Colon Cancer Alliance, Hemophilia Federation of America, Immune Deficiency Foundation, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Lupus Foundation of America, National Hemophilia Foundation, National Multiple Sclerosis Society, National Psoriasis Foundation, Patient Services Incorporated, Spondylitis Association of America, The Alliance for Patient Advocacy, and US Hereditary Angioedema Association. Additional Supporters of the Patients' Access to Treatments Act: American Society of Clinical Oncology, COPD Foundation, National Fibromyalgia & Chronic Pain Association, and the National Patient Advocate Foundation.

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