Where We Stand
The Colon Cancer Alliance supports legislation that increases access to screening, removes barriers to quality treatment, lessens the financial burden on patients and expands research funding and clinical trial access. We’ve backed bills that address issues such as Medicare coverage for screening methods, limiting out-of-pocket costs for certain drugs and closing the “colonoscopy loophole” that left patients susceptible to unexpected costs after a colonoscopy. Our advocacy efforts are always driven by our mission of championing prevention, funding cutting-edge research and providing the highest quality patient support services.
Patient Access to Therapies
The Colon Cancer Alliance helps nearly one million individuals affected by colon cancer each year, and we want all patients to have access to the best treatment options available. The cost of treatment, though, is continuing to rise – cancer treatment currently costs about $10,000 per month on average. Considering the additional out-of-pocket costs faced by patients, the financial burden of a cancer diagnosis is staggering. We firmly believe, however, that treatment decisions should be made based on what is best for the patient, not based on what physicians think a patient can afford. Shared decision making is key. Patients must have a voice in determining their own treatment plan, and health care providers should be respectful of their patients’ preferences and values.
This is how CMS (Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) reimburses doctors’ offices for outpatient chemo drugs under Medicare Part B. Physicians are reimbursed the amount of the Average Sales Price (ASP) of the chemotherapy plus 6% to cover the cost of the drugs. As Congress looks to tighten its budget and cut costs, some people favor decreasing the reimbursement rate to 4% or lower. Lowering the reimbursement rate, however, would decrease access to care for many, as some oncologists would be forced to stop accepting new Medicare patients or go out of business.
340B Drug Pricing Program
Congress created this program in 1992 to help improve access to medical services for uninsured and low-income patients. It works by providing discounted prescription drugs to hospitals and clinics that serve high numbers of indigent patients. The goal is for the cost savings from these discounts to be reinvested into services for needy patients. However, concerns are growing about whether the 340B program has strayed from its original purpose. We advocate reforming 340B to ensure that its drug discounts are being used to help patients instead of padding the bottom line for hospitals.
Biologics and Biosimilars
Biologics are complex drugs that are manufactured using a unique process involving living cells. This is vastly different than traditional drugs that are manufactured chemically – if you buy Advil or Motrin, you know you’re getting the chemical compound ibuprofen. The active ingredient in Advil, Motrin, or generic ibuprofen is exactly the same. With biologics, however, it is not possible to make a generic copy of a proprietary drug. Altering any part of the manufacturing process or living cell line that the drug is derived from can change the identity of the compound and the exact effect that it has. Biosimilars, which are also called follow-on biologics, are drugs that are similar, but not identical, to an original drug. There can be no real generic drugs in biologic medicine, since biosimilars cannot use the same living cell line and manufacturing process as the original.
Patient safety is of the utmost concern to us when dealing with biologics. Because these drugs are so complex, small differences in biosimilars can have unexpected or harmful effects on patients. Monitoring a drug’s performance after it has been released for marketing – a process called pharmacovigilance – is extremely important with biologics, especially when there is a risk of adverse reactions. In addition to pharmacovigilance, the naming of biologics and biosimilars is a crucial safeguard for patients. These drugs must be named a way that makes it clear to consumers that biosimilars are distinct from the biologics that they aim to copy. There should be no confusion that any biosimilar is an identical generic version of a biologic, and a system of unique names will help prevent any misunderstanding.
Colon Cancer Research
Funding for cancer research should be a national priority. Over the past two decades, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) have shrunk the percentage of their budget devoted to cancer research. Meanwhile, the need for research dollars has only increased in terms of both public health and the scientific community. Congress must renew their commitment to cancer research funding, including colon cancer research.