Imagine having a life-threatening disease that isn’t responding to the typical drugs. But there’s a drug out there – FDA-approved for other conditions – that might work for you.
That was the situation for Rhode Island Sen. Bill Walaska (D-Warwick) when he was diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia, or CLL.
For this week’s The Pulse, we speak with Walaska about his experience and the recently signed legislation it inspired. Now, health insurers must cover off-label drug use for life-threatening conditions that go beyond cancer.
The federal Food and Drug Administration approves drugs for uses in certain conditions, but doctors can prescribe them differently– that’s called off-label use. Now, if at least a couple of medical studies have found a drug might be beneficial for other uses, insurance companies in the Ocean State must cover it. State Senator Bill Walaska sponsored the legislation. He says the drugs might otherwise be out of reach.
“These drugs are expensive, but they have been proven to work. And that was the impetus for this piece of legislation,” Walaska told RIPR's Kristin Gourlay.
The law comes into effect at a time of increased scrutiny on drug costs –especially expensive cancer treatments and other specialty drugs that haven’t shown dramatic improvements to extend patients’ lives.