The law, signed by Gov. Chet Culver on Tuesday, requires private health insurance companies in Iowa to cover the cost of routine medical care for people with cancer who wish to take part in such studies.
Currently, only about 3 percent of people with cancer nationwide enroll in clinical trials. Some patients do not enroll in trials because they worry their insurance companies will then refuse to pay for routine care that is not part of the research study.
At Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Iowa, nearly 10 percent of patients participate in clinical trials aimed at improving a treatment or comparing existing treatments. However, even more patients might enroll in studies with this new legislation in place, said George Weiner, M.D., director of the Holden Center.
“Every advance in cancer care has been based on clinical trials,” Weiner said. “There are many challenges to enrolling patients in cancer clinical trials. This law is an important step in removing one hurdle and making it easier for patients to participate.”
Weiner noted that clinical studies have improved survival rates and increased quality-of-life for many cancers, including testicular cancer and breast cancer. In addition, the most common type of pediatric leukemia now has a cure rate above 80 percent, thanks to clinical studies.
Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center currently has under way nearly 150 different clinical trials aimed at improving treatments for different cancers. The goals range from a prostate cancer vaccine to new chemotherapy methods and combinations for pediatric cancers.
The initial bill unanimously passed the Iowa House of Representatives by a 96-0 vote in late January and then passed in the Senate 47-0 in mid-February. The Iowa law applies only to many private insurance policies used in Iowa and does not apply to federal insurance programs. Now, a total of 31 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
Most cancer clinical studies are supported by federal and other grants, as well as contributions from grateful patients and other contributors and sometimes pharmaceutical companies.
“No one is suggesting that the insurance companies pay for the actual research costs,” Weiner said. “This law just ensures that patients’ routine care costs are covered.
“My hope is that this law would take away one of the concerns that patients have about being in a trial and increase the number of people who want to take part in the trials. This, in turn, will speed up our ability to make progress in the fight against cancer. That’s the ultimate goal,” Weiner added.
Learn more about Holden Cancer Center at http://www.uihealthcare.com/depts/cancercenter/.
VIDEO: A video of Dr. Weiner discussing this topic while the then-bill was working its way through the legislature is available at: http://www.uihealthcare.com/news/news/2010/02/video/index.html.
STORY SOURCE: University of Iowa Health Care Media Relations, 200 Hawkins Drive, Room E110 GH, Iowa City, Iowa 52242-1009
MEDIA CONTACT: Becky Soglin, 319-356-7127, [email protected]