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

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.R460) 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

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.

Please ask lawmakers to support and cosponsor the Patients’
Access to Treatments Act of 2013 (H.R.). Please contact your lawmaker by