Bipartisan Bill Aims to Ensure Timely Access to Oral Oncology Drugs

Aislinn Antrim, Associate Editor

The legislation would require that patients with cancer have access to oral oncology drugs within 72 hours of having the prescription submitted to the patient’s pharmacy benefits manager.

With the introduction of the Timely Access to Cancer Treatment (TACT) Act in Congress, Representatives Terri Sewell (D-AL) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) are aimed at removing red tape and accelerating patients’ access to necessary cancer treatments.1

According to a press release from Sewell’s office, the legislation would require that patients with cancer have access to oral oncology drugs within an acceptable time frame, defined as 72 hours of having the prescription submitted to the patient’s pharmacy benefits manager (PBM).1

“Doctors, not bureaucrats, best understand the needs of their patients and should be empowered with the tools needed to provide the best possible care—especially when time is of the essence,” Bilirakis said in a press release.1

Patients’ timely access to cancer treatments has become increasingly complicated by the health care delivery system. According to the press release, this is especially true for oral cancer drugs. According to the bill sponsors, bureaucratic systems such as PBMs and health insurance plan sponsors frequently slow down the process for patients to receive their treatments, and the bill sponsors noted that some PBMs even disallow the prescribed drugs.1

To address these problems, the TACT Act requires that patients receive their oral cancer drugs within 3 days of being prescribed, allowing for situations that are understandable and acceptable, such as acquiring financial support. The bill includes specialty and mail order pharmacies with the organizations responsible for ensuring patients’ access.1

“Undergoing treatment for cancer is difficult enough,” Sewell said in the press release. “No patient should also have to worry about delays in receiving potentially life-saving medication. The TACT Act is a simple, commonsense solution that would remove unnecessary roadblocks and empower doctors to get their patients the critical care that they need in a timely manner.”1

For patients who are not able to receive their prescription within 72 hours, the bill said they should be able to seek pharmacy services and receive their prescription from any other duly licensed entity that can fill the prescription. This must also be covered under the patient’s plan and with full use of the patient’s applicable benefits, according to the press release.1

Because prior authorization requirements can often hinder patients’ ability to receive their medications quickly, the bill requires that any prior authorization required by the PBM take place in such a time that the 72-hour time limit is not exceeded.1

The bill has already received support from the Community Oncology Alliance (COA). A press release from COA described it as a “patient empowerment bill,” and said complexities within the health care system can create delays that last weeks or even months.2

“The TACT Act of 2021 is the definition of good, bipartisan legislation that puts patients first by reducing unnecessary hurdles cancer patients face in getting treated,” said COA Executive Director Ted Okon, MBA, in a press release. “Thank you to Representatives Sewell and Bilirakis for taking the lead on this important bipartisan legislation. We encourage all members of Congress to put their support behind this bill to make it a reality.”2

The press release added that COA will work with Congress to advance the TACT Act and other cancer care reforms.2

REFERENCES

1. Reps. Sewell, Bilirakis Introduce Legislation to Ensure Timely Access to Treatment for Patients with Cancer [news release]. Congresswoman Terri Sewell; May 26, 2021. https://sewell.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/reps-sewell-bilirakis-introduce-legislation-ensure-timely-access. Accessed May 27, 2021.

2. Community Oncology Alliance Applauds Introduction of “Timely Access to Cancer Treatment (TACT) Act” [news release]. Community Oncology Alliance; May 27, 2021. https://communityoncology.org/community-oncology-alliance-applauds-introduction-of-timely-access-to-cancer-treatment-tact-act/. Accessed May 27, 2021.