By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
In a rarely seen demonstration of unity in an otherwise strongly divided political environment, the Washington State Legislature unanimously voted to allow cancer patients to donate expensive medications to other patients who are underinsured. As expected, the governor signed the measure into law.
It is a welcome first step in allowing access to drugs otherwise unaffordable and potentially economically bankrupting to patients and their families. In addition to its obvious health benefit, the law surely will provide reassurance and a small amount of respite during stressful times for those in need.
This laudable and heralding law originated from the efforts of cancer patient Jonathan Van Keulen and his wife Becky. Jonathan was diagnosed with a rare form of bone cancer and in the spring of last year the couple founded the non-profit “Cancer Can’t” to provide services and support for similarly afflicted individuals and their loved ones. Additionally, and with the assistance of State Representative Kevin Parker of Spokane, the “Cancer Can’t Charitable Pharmacy Act” came to fruition.
Unfortunately, on April 4th, Jonathan succumbed to his illness.
Despite the loss of his life and those facing his spouse and two sons, he brought forth a legacy through legislation that undoubtedly will benefit many more in years to come.
Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2458 (2015-16), amends Chapter 69.70 of the Revised Code of Washington (RCW). Pertinent amendments are discussed here.
(2) The person to whom a prescription drug was prescribed, or the3person’s representative, may donate prescription drugs under subsection (1) of this section if, as determined by the professional judgment of a pharmacist, the prescription drugs were stored under required temperature conditions using the prescription drugs’ time temperature indicator information and the person, or the person’s representative, has completed and signed a donor form, adopted by the department, to release the prescription drug for distribution under this chapter and certifying that the donated prescription drug has never been opened, used, adulterated, or misbranded.
Sec. 3. RCW 69.70.040 and 2013 c 260 s 4 are each amended to read as follows:
Pharmacies, pharmacists, and prescribing practitioners that elect to dispense donated prescription drugs and supplies under this chapter shall give priority to individuals who are uninsured (( and at or below two hundred percent of the federal poverty level)). If an uninsured ((and low-income)) individual has not been identified as in need of available prescription drugs and supplies, those prescription drugs and supplies may be dispensed to other individuals expressing need.
Sec. 4. RCW 69.70.050 and 2013 c 260 s 5 are each amended to read as follows:
(1) Prescription drugs or supplies may be accepted and dispensed under this chapter if all of the following conditions are met:
(a) The prescription drug is in:
(i) Its original sealed and tamper evident packaging; or
(ii) An opened package if it contains single unit doses that remain intact;
(b) The prescription drug bears an expiration date that is more than six months after the date the prescription drug was donated;
(c) The prescription drug or supplies are inspected before the prescription drug or supplies are dispensed by a pharmacist employed by or under contract with the pharmacy, and the pharmacist determines that the prescription drug or supplies are not adulterated or misbranded;
(5) A prescription drug that can only be dispensed to a patient registered with the manufacturer of that drug, in accordance with the requirements established by the federal food and drug administration, may not be ((accepted or)) distributed under the program, unless the patient receiving the prescription drug is registered with the manufacturer at the time the drug is dispensed and the amount dispensed does not exceed the duration of the registration period.
Your author has some concerns about the requirement of a patient registering with a drug manufacturer as this can be made to be a bureaucratic process where the company might be reluctant to lose the sale of these drugs to a new patient. Experimental drugs surely might be excepted. A situation could develop where the manufacturer refuses to register the patient who in turn must go back to square one in attempting to find funding for their medications.
Despite these concerns the law surely is welcoming, for more than just these cancer patients but it offers cost savings to an already overburdened health care system.
The law is effective in 2017.
By Darren Smith
The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.