Members of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society are at the statehouse today, lobbying for a bill that would force Iowa-based insurance companies to provide coverage for cancer patients who want to participate in clinical trials of medications not yet on the market.
Lorna Johns of Des Moines has participated in clinical trials to treat her leukemia, but she is 80 years old and enrolled in government-paid Medicaid which pays for that kind of drug treatment. "I’ve been out of any treatment now for 15 months and out of remission for eight months. My disease is again escalating, but I’m now in conversation with another trial site. This again brings hope to me and is much less expensive than palliative treatment."
Palliative care focuses on treating the symptoms of a disease and reducing pain for the patient. Representative Mark Smith, a Democrat from Marshalltown, is a prostate cancer survivor who is sponsoring the House bill that would force Iowa insurers to cover cancer patients’ participation in clinical trials.
"This is going to devote a good deal of more research and ability to people to access research in order to advance the knowledge base that we have about cancers and the interventions that we can provide," Smith says. Senator Joe Bolkcom, a Democrat from Iowa City, is sponsoring the bill in the Iowa Senate.
"This bill is about recognizing the…power of these clinical trials to help citizens around our state have better health outcomes," Bolkcom says. According to Bolkcom, 19 other states have taken the step of requiring insurers to cover the drugs prescribed to cancer patients in clinical trials. Bolkcom says those trials provide access to "cutting edge" treatment.
"We all have stories in our families about cancer," Bolkcom says. "…It’s around us." The bill would cover clinical trials for all forms of cancer. A subcommittee in the Iowa Senate will review the proposal Bolkcom is backing this afternoon.