A new law will allow cancer patients in Washington state to donate their unused cancer drugs that have not been tampered with to people in need who may be underinsured or uninsured.
Governor Jay Inslee signed the bill after it passed unanimously in both the House and Senate. Eventually, people will be able to drop off the medications at pharmacies throughout the state and those in need will be able to pick them up.
“The cost of cancer care is astronomical, especially for folks who are uninsured or underinsured whose insurance doesn’t cover specific medications, a program like this can be life-saving,” Mary McHale with the American Cancer Society said. “Whether or not you have the money to pay for the cost of your illness, that should not decide whether or not you live. So everybody should be able to access care regardless of your circumstances.”
Laurel Macartney has been battling breast cancer for the past 11 years and in that time, she’s taken part in 14 chemotherapies. She said she’s had reactions to several medications that she has not been able to use. Now she can donate those medications to someone fighting the same disease who can’t afford them. She showed just a one month supply of one of her meds valued at $2,400. She has good insurance and only pays $50, but she feels for those who have to pay the full amount. She says this legislation will save lives.
“I think anything we can do to decrease the cost of the disease is unbelievably appreciated because somewhere behind that drug that’s given out is a family that’s barely surviving,” Macartney said. “This new legislation what it’s going to enable me to do is take it to either a pharmacist or a hospital or whoever they decide is the distribution site, and as long as the drug is sealed and it’s not compromised and you’ve met the storage requirements, they can take it and they can give it to another patient who needs it.”
The bill was the inspiration of Becky and Jonathan Van Keulen of Spokane. While Jonathan was in the middle of his fight, he had a box with $10,000 worth of cancer drugs he could not use. Becky could not bring herself to throw them away, so she approached Representative Kevin Parker, R-Spokane, with her concerns, and together they changed the law.
Parker said that Jonathan Van Keulen passed away Monday. Parker was quick to point out that Van Keulen was thinking about others, even in his final days. Parker believes this legislation will save lives.