Oncology and Health Care Policy

Published on 04/03/2015 by admin

Filed under Hematology, Oncology and Palliative Medicine

Last modified 04/03/2015

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Chapter 21

Oncology and Health Care Policy

Summary of Key Points

• Policies promulgated by government at the federal, state, and local levels have profound effects on virtually every aspect of the day-to-day practice of oncology. In the face of extreme financial pressures, policy makers will continue to make decisions that have tremendous impact on the cancer community.

• Federal policies play a critical role in cancer research. Although the national resources devoted to cancer research remain substantial (exceeding $5 billion in 2012), the nation is losing opportunities and efficiencies because of suboptimal funding. The combination of relatively flat funding for the National Cancer Institute since 2003 and biomedical inflation has eroded the effective level of federal support for cancer research by more than 20% during the past decade. The promise for new highly effective cancer therapies has never been brighter, and as a result, the need to amplify the cancer community’s commitment to ensure that adequate research funding exists has never been greater.

• There are many examples within the federal government of initiatives to create safeguards for patients with cancer through laws, regulations, and agency determinations. For example, genetic testing holds great promise to help prevent significant morbidity and mortality for individuals carrying genetic risk factors for certain types of cancer. Although care must be taken to avoid unnecessary regulation, too few protections are currently provided in this area. Oncologists are uniquely positioned to help agency officials establish more robust safeguards that promote and protect the interests of patients with cancer.

• Drug shortages have also emerged to challenge the oncology community and policy makers. During the past few years, there has been a worsening trend in which critical and often curative anticancer drugs are suddenly becoming unavailable to patients in the United States. In 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration increased its efforts to tackle this issue, and Congress took initial steps to help address drug shortages. The oncology community should continue to work with Congress and federal agencies to address the complex issue of drug shortages.

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