by Amanda Conschafter, Blog Editor
The value of innovative cancer treatments – both in dollars and cents and in human life – takes center stage this month with two complementary efforts to encourage pro-patient policy. This Monday, the Institute of Medicine holds its National Cancer Policy Forum Workshop, where researchers, academics, insurance representatives and patient advocates consider policy approaches to rising cancer care costs and drug shortages. Meanwhile, a grassroots movement of cancer survivors and supporters are energizing the My Life is Worth It campaign, urging legislators to keep patient voices central to the policy debate.
Spearheaded by Robert Goldberg, Ph.D., My Life is Worth It tackles suggestions that “unsustainable” health care expenses necessitate cost-based evaluations about which treatments offer results that justify their price tag – and which patients should be eligible for life-saving treatments. (The American Society of Clinical Oncology is reportedly developing a formula for this purpose.) Instead, the campaign focuses on the personal value of human life, explaining that “The lives of people with cancer are measured in birthdays, graduations, weddings and anniversaries. Every day is valuable to patients and to their loved ones….”
Dr. Goldberg contends that patients should actively participate in the cancer care policy conversation, as it directly affects them. The organization likewise argues that doctors should be patient allies, not “financial gatekeepers,” and that cancer patients need faster access to oncology therapies.
Both My Life is Worth It and the National Cancer Policy Forum’s workshop reflect growing concern that efforts to address costs not create new impediments to patient’s access to the therapies they need – and stifle the medical innovation that holds promise for cancer patients’ future.