State Senator Rubio’s Bill Expands Cancer Medication Access

February 4, 2021

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sen. Susan Rubio (D-Baldwin Park) today introduced a critical bill that will ensure our most vulnerable cancer patients have access to life saving cancer medication by creating a cancer medication donation program.

Senate Bill 310 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, Director of State Legislation for the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network California.

“We are proud to sponsor Senator Rubio’s legislation, which is aimed at allowing oncologists the ability to redistribute valuable cancer medications – giving patients and their doctors the best opportunity to properly treat cancer as quickly as possible and reduce the waste of high quality medications.  With the implementation of this bill, more patients will have access to needed treatment medications in a timely manner, and we applaud the Senator for her commitment to oncologists and our patients throughout the state,” according to the Association of Northern California Oncologists.

In 2018, the National Council on State Legislatures indicated there are 21 states that have active drug donation and reuse programs, serving thousands of patients, and saving 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 Oklahoma’s program has filled 227,603 prescriptions, worth about $22,518,462 through the end of May 2018. Furthermore, 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.