CANCER TRIALS: Amendment Would Mandate HMO Coverage
Rep. Matt Salmon (R-AZ) today is expected to unveil an amendment to the House leadership's HMO reform bill that would guarantee HMO enrollees "the right to take part in any experimental study approved by the National Cancer Institute, the NIH, the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Defense Department." Salmon said, "Cancer is a scourge on our society. It's a win-win for everybody when we get involved in these clinical trials. I think it's myopic not to see the benefits across the board." According to the American Cancer Society, 563,000 U.S. residents will die of cancer this year, while an additional 1.2 million will be diagnosed with cancer. Further, the American Society of Clinical Oncology reports that only "3% of cancer patients enroll in studies promising new treatments while at least 20% could qualify for such treatment." Dr. Evan Hersh of the Arizona Cancer Center explained that health insurers claim the costs of covering clinical trials are too high. However, a Mayo Clinic study found that "the average cost of treating cancer patients in clinical trials goes up about 5% over five years compared with the costs of standard therapy."
In related news, Dr. Sydney Salmon, the Arizona Cancer Center's founding director, who bears no relation to Rep. Salmon, will resign from his post this week, while Dr. Daniel Von Hoff, formerly of the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio, will take his place (Erikson, Arizona Daily Star 8/11).