Oral Chemotherapy Bill Signed into Law in New York State

On September 23 New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a bill that requires health plans to cover orally administered chemotherapy treatments at a cost equal to intravenously or injected chemotherapy treatments. The bill will go into effect January 2012.

Traditional intravenous chemotherapy drugs administered in a hospital or clinic are often included as a medical benefit under a patient’s health insurance plan. However, many oral chemotherapies are defined as a prescription benefit and frequently require much higher out-of-pocket costs for patients, or they have been unavailable to patients with financial caps on their prescription benefit.

For lymphoma patients, oral chemotherapy agents that are sometimes used include cyclophosphamide (cytoxan), etoposide (VP-16), and procarbazine (matulane).

Regarding the new legislation, Dr. John Leonard, the Clinical Director of the Weill Cornell Lymphoma Program, said, “This is a very important law to allow our patients access to some of the crucial drugs that they need. A great deal of credit goes out to those who highlighted this issue for our legislators and asked them to take these steps.  It speaks to the importance of having all of us take an active role in encouraging government policies that can improve outcomes for patients. “

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