New Law Allows Cancer Patients To Donate Unused Medicines To The Underinsured

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor

220px-FlattenedRoundPillsIn 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 Columbia Basin Herald
Washington State Legislature

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.

21 thoughts on “New Law Allows Cancer Patients To Donate Unused Medicines To The Underinsured”

  1. I have grown increasingly convinced that too many on the Left has become heartless. Instead of feeling compassion for all of those who lost their doctors, faced huge increases in premiums, or the poor who got a worthless insurance card that good doctors won’t accept, the response is typically that of the above.

    Look what voters have done to people:

    “Some newly insured patients wonder whether it’s worth paying for coverage they can’t actually use. Even when they do find a provider, reports show they face crippling out-of-pocket costs they didn’t expect.”

    “Obamacare implemented patient protections – such as being eligible for coverage regardless of pre-existing conditions – that in turn caused insurance companies to implement other strategies to reduce costs. One of these is creating narrow networks, with a limited number of doctors and hospitals that fall under a particular plan. In many cases, insurance companies offer specific providers a higher volume of patients in exchange for a lower reimbursement rate.”

    It’s like they took what was the worst about health insurance and amplified it. Now in order to make ends meet, doctors follow a factory line model. They spend less time with patients in order to make up the difference in the pay cut.

    Do you think that helped anyone?

    “A study published in JAMA of 135 health insurance plans in 34 state marketplaces that were available during the 2015 open enrollment period found that one in seven plans didn’t provide access to in-network doctors for at least one medical specialty, with endocrinology, rheumatology and psychiatry being the most commonly excluded specialties.

    On the hospital side, an Associated Press survey last year found that many plans sold on the exchanges exclude large cancer centers from their provider networks, and a survey by Avalere earlier this year found that a quarter of cancer centers still report they are excluded from the networks offered by most of their state’s exchange.”

    I wonder if the Left considers the cancer patients that are now excluded from major cancer centers to be whiners?

    “One family physician who works in rural northeastern Pennsylvania spoke with U.S. News on condition of anonymity. He has been a physician for more than 35 years, and says the administrative burden, paperwork issues and associated care costs for marketplace patients is more than the reimbursement he receives for treating them. Reimbursement can be 30 to 50 percent less than what is offered through employer-provided plans.”

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