Walker signs oral chemotherapy drugs bill

Gov. Scott Walker
Gov. Scott Walker

MILWAUKEE (AP) – Gov. Scott Walker signed a bill into law Thursday that is designed to lower the cost of chemotherapy drugs that cancer patients take in pill form, a proposal that passed the Legislature with broad bipartisan support after initially being stymied due to opposition from the insurance industry and a handful of Republicans.

Walker signed the measure at the Froedtert and Medical College of Wisconsin Clinical Cancer Center. The new law, which takes effect in January, requires health insurers to charge the same price for chemotherapy pills, which can be taken at home, as for intravenous treatments, which are administered at hospitals.

Supporters, including a coalition of 28 patient groups, medical providers, health care institutions and others who have lobbied for years to get the bill passed, say the new law will help more patients afford a more convenient form of treatment. The pills can cost thousands of dollars more than intravenous chemotherapy.

“Treatment should be based on the disease and not your wallet,” said the bill’s Republican co-sponsors, Sen. Alberta Darling, of River Hills, and Rep. Pat Strachota, of West Bend. They said the new law will help save lives.

Insurance companies typically view the oral drugs as a pharmacy benefit and the intravenous therapy as a medical treatment, which leads to the price disparity. Patients can often be required to pay half of the pharmacy benefit’s cost.

The new law caps a patient’s copay for the drugs at $100 per month per prescription.

Historically, intravenous treatments have been the predominant route for administering chemotherapy to fight a wide variety of cancers. While chemotherapy in pill form has been available for decades, supporters argued for the new law because more of the new drugs being developed are in pill form.

Wisconsin becomes the 30th state with such a law.

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