Op-ed: Arizona’s Cancer Community Needs Senator Sinema

By Caroline Harbeck Farkas


A couple months ago, headlines were made when an experimental cancer drug eliminated 100% of cancer tumors in patients with rectal cancer.  It was a monumental moment for those in the cancer community.  It showed that there is hope, and it showed that we may be at the forefront of some amazing discoveries in not only treating cancer, but actually beating cancer.

It is with that mindset that I am cautiously hopeful that Senator Sinema will work on behalf of the cancer community and its patients by defending innovation in the Senate drug pricing plan currently being negotiated.  There are provisions in the bill that allow the government to negotiate drug prices for certain drugs 9 or 13 years past their initial approval.  That would simply disrupt the process for which we find cancer breakthroughs.  There are countless examples of an approved cancer drug later being found to help treat another cancer, or five cancers, or ten cancers!  That is because research on a drug doesn’t end when it is brought to market.  It continues, so it can be built upon using other drugs.  Eventually a bridge is built, and new cancer treatments are formed.  The current drug pricing bill does not take any of that into account, sadly.

There is no greater proof of this than in the recent Vital Transformations study conducted by BIO.  It found that of the 110 drugs approved between 2012-2021 (for not only cancer, but other diseases), only 6 would have made it to market under the Senate drug pricing plan.  Furthermore, a University of Chicago analysis found that cancer research and development would drop 31% under these price controls.  It would issue a critical blow to President Biden’s “Cancer Moonshot” initiative and would cause patients to miss out on 9x as many new drugs without price controls.

There is a way we can lower drug prices.  We can enable drug maker coupons and rebates to go directly to the consumer, or maybe even cap co-pays for not only diabetes, but other chronic diseases.  We can reform pharmacy benefit managers, which is something both parties and the FTC have been working on.  There are options out there that do not hurt future treatment for cancer patients.

I know how important combatting cancer is to Senator Sinema.  She recently passed a resolution designating May as Brain Tumor Awareness Month, honoring her mentor Senator McCain in the process. I know how closely she has worked with the University of Arizona Cancer Center on renewing their funding so they are able to continue the great work and research they do.  She also recently signed onto the Medicare Multi-Cancer Early Detection Screening Coverage Act, which will give greater access to new and innovative cancer screenings for seniors.  Senator Sinema has been a champion of the cancer community for our great state of Arizona.  We are hopeful she can pull through once more for us.

Caroline Harbeck Farkas is a board member of A 2nd Act and the Arizona Myeloma Network.  Both organizations work on providing resources, education, and advocacy on behalf of the cancer patients and their families.


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