Senator Rubio’s Bill Expands Access to Cancer Medication

February 12, 2020

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) today introduced a bill that will allow cancer patients to donate their unused oral anti-cancer medications to patients in need.

Senate Bill 983 will provide relief to cancer patients who cannot afford or experience delays in receiving their medication. The program will also reduce improper medication waste that negatively affects our waterways and environment.  Existing law authorizes a county to establish a voluntary drug repository and distribution program to distribute surplus medications but cancer medications are not included in these programs.

“Access to healthcare is one of my top priorities,” Sen. Rubio said. “This program will help cancer patients receive critically needed medications. It would reduce costs, ensure timely access, and prevent unused medications from going to waste, all while protecting our medically fragile patients.”

“Cancer patients spend thousands of dollars on life-saving medications every year. The cost is often prohibitive, and at times, patients have medications they will not use for a variety of reasons, including, but not limited to, a lack of tolerance due to the side effects,” said Autumn Ogden-Smith, Legislative Director of the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California.

“This bill will allow oncologists the ability to redistribute valuable medications, gives patients and their doctors the best opportunity to properly treat cancer as quickly as possible and reduces the waste of high-quality medications. Senator Rubio’s proposed legislation will ensure that more cancer patients in California have access to needed treatment medications in a timely manner and reduce the amount of anti-cancer medications that are wasted,” according to the co-sponsors of the bill, the Association of Northern California Oncologists and the Medical Oncology association of Southern California.

Per the National Council on State Legislatures, as of 2018, 21 states have active drug donation and reuse programs.  These states have served thousands of patients, and saved tens of millions of dollars over the years.

For example, Iowa’s program has served 71,000 patients and redistributed $17.7 million in free medications and supplies, and in Oklahoma, the program has filled 227,603 prescriptions, worth about $22,518,462 through the end of May 2018.  One medical practice in New Mexico, which represents the newest program that applies solely to cancer medication, saved patients more than $300,000 in its first year in operation with no adverse effects.

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