Cancer Treatment

"Close to 40,000 Arizonans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. These patients can’t afford a reduction in treatment options."

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter said it best when she said, “There are only four kinds of people in the world: those who have been caregivers, those who are currently caregivers, those who will be caregivers, and those who will need caregivers.” 

That quote exemplifies our mission at CancerCaregiversAZ. We promote education and advocacy for improved treatment and quality of life not only for cancer patients but also for their families and ALL cancer caregivers.

Only three states top Arizona when it comes to cancer survival.

Over the past few years, our organization has met with elected officials like Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and Congressman David Schweikert. They have done a great job to support our mission and have diligently worked to promote and encourage innovation. 

Unfortunately, some policymakers outside of our state are considering proposals that would derail this progress.

 In an effort to lower drug prices, they want to institute government price controls in the part of Medicare that covers physician-administered drugs that offer advanced cancer treatments.

Like all price controls, such a shift would put innovative treatments out of reach for patients in Arizona and across the country.

At this time, physicians are paid for these drugs based on the “average sales price” of each drug and a small fee to cover storage and administrative costs.  This policy has allowed physicians to administer these medicines in a way that is both safe and efficient.

Some of our legislators in Washington want to scrap this model and move toward a system based on the price controls that certain foreign countries impose on prescription medicines. 

The plan has been dubbed the “international pricing index” model, and it would essentially give government officials the power to set drug prices.

This proposal would save the Treasury Department some money but to the detriment of cancer patients and other patients dealing with serious and/or chronic diseases.

Proponents of price controls are so focused on drug prices, they fail to realize the tradeoffs these policies entail.

 In order to save money, foreign countries often severely limit access to newer, more effective treatments. This makes it harder for patients to benefit from groundbreaking medical innovation.

Because our government doesn’t meddle with drug prices, firms introduce their medicines in the United States before anywhere else in the world. This allows Americans to enjoy unparalleled access to the latest, most effective treatments.

Thanks in part to this increased access, the United States has lower cancer mortality rates than other developed countries.

Price controls would impede access to more than just cancer drugs. In the United States, patients enjoy access to 88 percent of all new medicines right away. 

Patients in 16 countries that control drug prices had immediate access to just 48 percent of new drugs, on average.

If U.S. lawmakers deploy similar cost-cutting strategies, it will be at the expense of patient health and well-being.

That would not bode well for our state. Close to 40,000 Arizonans will be diagnosed with cancer this year. These patients can’t afford a reduction in treatment options.

Let’s hope Arizona’s representatives in Washington continue to lead the charge in prioritizing patient care over short-term government savings.

Barbara Kavanagh is the founde/CEO of Arizona Myeloma Network, AzMN & Cancer CareGiversAZ.

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