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US Senator Wants More Access To Clinical Trials.

When cancer treatments fail, patients can turn to clinical trials as a last hope for a cure or remission. However, many insurance companies do not cover either the clinical trials or the routine care costs that can accompany them. US Senator Sherrod Brown has introduced a bill which he hopes will expand access to clinical trials.

Gene Bayman was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in February 2007. There is no known cure for the blood disease. So when the standard treatments were no longer effective, his doctor told him about several clinical trials that seemed promising. However, his insurance carrier would not cover the cost. "Since they were not FDA-approved, my carrier denied coverage," said Bayman.

This is the Catch-22 for people with private insurance: for promising new drugs and treatments to be approved by the FDA, they must pass clinical trials. However, health insurance companies often will refuse to cover the costs of the patients' participation in trials.

This can be an administrative nightmare for patients, says Senator Brown: "People fighting for their lives shouldn't have to worry about dealing with a health insurance company that's trying to cut off their payments."

Which is why he recently introduced a national bill to expand access to clinical trials. And although Ohio passed a similar bill last year, a national bill is needed. "About half the people with insurance in Ohio are under federally regulated, not state regulated, insurance; so, we need a federal law to make sure that everyone in the state gets that access to coverage," Brown said.

Bayman's doctor told him of another clinical trial that's set to start this summer. The doctor mentioned a few other patients who had been helped by the trial, and Bayman asked how they were able enroll. The answer: they have Medicare.

"And I thought, that is so frustrating. I mean, it's almost discriminatory to me, because I'm 63, and you know I have the right to treatment just like anyone else," said Bayman.

The bill would require insurance companies to cover nursing and other care associated with clinical trials.

Sadie Taylor, WOSU News