Measure Targets Access to Drugs

Jun 26, 2017
In The News

By LINDELL JOHN KAY
Staff Writer

Monday, June 26, 2017

A local lawmaker has introduced a bill in Congress meant to improve access to life-saving drugs for millions of Americans.

U.S. Rep. G. K. Butterfield, D-1st District, filed the Patients’ Access to Treatments Act, or H.R. 2999, on Friday. The bipartisan bill — cosponsored by U.S. David McKinley, R-West Virginia — is supported by a coalition of patient advocacy groups.

The act will give patients with chronic, disabling and life-threatening conditions — such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer — access to innovative drug therapies. By requiring insurance to cover these critical drugs, millions of patients will be able to afford vital life-saving medicine, Butterfield said.

“Researchers in North Carolina and throughout the country have made great strides to provide promising and innovative medical treatments,” Butterfield said. “Unfortunately, working families struggle to afford the rising out-of-pocket costs of treatment, even with insurance. This bill will make patient access to life-saving medications more affordable. I am proud to join Congressman McKinley in the introduction of our bill, and I thank him for his continued leadership on this measure.”

McKinley said millions of Americans suffer unnecessarily from chronic and disabling diseases because they are unable to afford critical treatments.

“The cost of these life-saving and life-changing treatments can be astronomical and out of reach even for families with good health insurance,” McKinley said. “We’ve met with hundreds of patients over the years and listened to their stories. I know this legislation would improve life for many families, for whom the price of these drugs is out of reach. We can give people a new lease on life by passing this bill.”

Dr. Angus Worthing, chairman of the Government Affairs Committee for the American College of Rheumatology, said he sees first-hand the importance of access to effective therapies, such as biologics or specialty drugs, on the lives of patients with chronic diseases like rheumatoid arthritis and lupus.

“These therapies provide relief for millions of Americans and can enable them to function and pursue their livelihoods,” Worthing said.

Every day, high out-of-pocket costs stand between patients and the medications they need to win their battle against cancer, said Lou DeGenarro, CEO of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.

“The bipartisan Patients’ Access to Treatments Act would limit cost-sharing requirements for lifesaving medications and begin to break down the barriers to access for patients for the therapies they need,” DeGenarro said. “On behalf of the more than 1.2 million patients in the U.S. living with a blood cancer, LLS thanks Representatives McKinley and Butterfield for their leadership on this critical issue for patients, and we urge the House to stand with patients and quickly pass this bill.”

The Coalition for Accessible Treatments, which represents over 30 patient and provider advocacy groups, also supports the legislation.