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New Legislation Seeks To Bring Down Costs Of Anti-Cancer Medicine

BALTIMORE (WJZ)-- There are new drugs in the battle against cancer, if you can afford them. Some people who can't are dying.

Alex DeMetrick reports that's prompted legislation to bring new chemotherapy costs down to save lives.

Chemotherapy drugs delivered by IV were once state-of-the-art, but a new generation of cancer-fighting drugs comes in pills.

"And I take two capsules every morning before breakfast, that's it. No visits to the hospital. It works," cancer survivor Coard Simpler said.

But it isn't cheap. Because chemo delivered by IV takes medical personnel, it is covered by medical insurance, with co-pays of $50 to $100. But the pills are a prescription and that co-pay can soar.

"They can run $300 to $2,000 per month for each prescription," Cindy Carter of the Cancer Support Foundation said.

To equalize those costs, a bill is being pushed in the Maryland legislature, named for Senator Jim Mathias' wife who died from breast cancer.

"And for the Stage Four community: We all do have terminal cancer. We realize that," said CJ Corneliussen-James, president of METAvivor Support, a nonprofit organization that promotes breast cancer research and awareness. "But some of us can do for a long period of time with different drugs. What we need is the flexibility to take whatever drug our doctor believes is the absolute best drug for us, and will sustain our lives the longest."

A life and death decision may sound clichéd, but it's exactly what people supporting this legislation are facing.

"I have a gentleman now that says I can only do two months, and after that I can't do it. I have no more money. I'm just going to have to die," Carter said.

Several states already have laws placing pills at the same co-pay rate as IVs. More than a dozen, including Maryland, have bills and patients pending.

Supporters of the bill say in the 15 states that have parity between chemotherapy treatments, there is no evidence of increased health insurance premiums.

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