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April 9, 1999

  Contact: Laura Livingston, 703-299-1012


The American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) applauds Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Edward Kennedy and Congressman John Dingell for the inclusion of clinical trials coverage in the "Patients Bill of Rights Act"(S. 6/H.R. 358).

ASCO, which is the national medical specialty society representing over 12,000 cancer specialists involved in clinical research and patient care, is committed to the provision of insurance coverage for clinical trials for cancer patients. "For people with serious or life-threatening diseases, curative treatment often is not available," said Allen S. Lichter, M.D., President of ASCO. "For those patients, access to state-of-the-art therapy through high-quality clinical trials, offers an important treatment option, as well as the opportunity to advance medical knowledge."

Many third-party payors – including the Medicare program – specifically exclude coverage of "experimental" or "investigational" treatments. This coverage limitation is intended to protect the patient from treatment that may be harmful or of no therapeutic value. Increasingly, however, this policy has been used to deny coverage for high-quality therapy in clinical trials. It is, therefore, ASCO’s position that any insurance reform measure in Congress must recognize the appropriate role of clinical trials for people with serious or life-threatening diseases and must provide coverage for the patient care costs incurred in clinical trials.

Last year, the President’s Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry identified eliminating barriers to consumer participation in clinical trials as one of six major goals for continuing national health reform. One such barrier is exclusion by health plans of any care provided in the context of a clinical trial. "Unless payors provide access to and coverage of costs associated with approved clinical trials for cancer and other life-threatening diseases, patients will be denied access to promising therapies," added Lichter. "Some will be denied their only chance for survival or improved quality of life."


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