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White, West Legislation Will Increase Access to Biomarker Testing for Patients Battling Cancer, Other Diseases

March 30, 2022
Andrea White News

COLUMBUS – With more than 1.8 million Americans facing a new cancer diagnosis each year,  State Representatives Andrea White (R-Kettering) and Thomas West (D-Canton) have introduced House Bill 608 to increase access to biomarker testing that will help unlock precision medicine for Ohioans. 

A “biomarker” is a sign of disease or abnormal function (genetic mutation) that can be measured in blood, tissue or other biospecimen. Today, healthcare workers can use “biomarker testing” to analyze these specimens to identify specific biomarkers and match a patient to one of nearly 80 treatments aimed to attack only those targeted cancer cells. 

Biomarker testing is increasingly important as the standard of care for cancer and for the treatment of other diseases.  However, there is currently limited and disparate access to biomarker testing.  A significant number of cancer patients and survivors do not receive biomarker testing because it is not covered by their insurer or the out-of-pocket costs would be too high.  

HB 608 seeks to level the playing field by requiring coverage for medically appropriate biomarker testing for Ohioans covered by state-regulated insurance plans, including Medicaid.  Additionally, the bill will require coverage for biomarker testing only if it is tied to rigorous sources of medical and scientific evidence and robust standards of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) or nationally recognized clinical practice guidelines, like the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN).

“This legislation is about getting patients the right treatment at the right time to help improve their chances of survival,” White said.  “Biomarker testing helps ensure doctors are prescribing personalized medicines that are designed to only target a patient’s specific cancer cells.  This can greatly reduce a person’s pain and suffering, shorten lost time from work and family life and decrease costs by avoiding expensive and ineffective treatments.” 

“Time is the enemy of cancer patients,” said West.  “Therefore we cannot waste time figuring out what treatment options will work.  Biomarker testing will personalize treatment options and get the cancer patient the treatment they need in time.”

While the use of biomarker testing and targeted therapies have been progressing rapidly to help patients battling cancer, 60% of oncology drugs launched in the past five years require or recommend biomarker testing prior to use. Research is currently being done in other fields including cardiology, rheumatology and neurology.  That is why this legislation is written to cover biomarker testing for any disease area where there are proven applications of biomarker testing with clear evidence meeting stringent guidelines.

"More than 30 Ohio health care and community organizations are supporting this legislation, including the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network," White said.  “All Ohioans should have access to biomarker testing if and when they need it.”

You can watch the entire press conference here.