Congresswoman Terri Sewell

Representing the 7th District of Alabama
 

Reps. Sewell, Bilirakis Introduce Legislation to Ensure Timely Access to Treatment for Patients with Cancer

May 26, 2021
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – This Congress, U.S. Reps. Terri Sewell (AL-07) and Gus Bilirakis (FL-12), introduced H.R. 3258, the Timely Access to Cancer Treatment (TACT) Act of 2021. This legislation would require that patients with cancer be provided their oral cancer drugs within an acceptable time frame.

“Undergoing treatment for cancer is difficult enough. No patient should also have to worry about delays in receiving potentially life-saving medication,” said Rep. Sewell. “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. I am proud to introduce this bill and urge my colleagues to support it.”

“This bill is about removing the red tape within our healthcare system and ensuring that cancer patients have timely access to their medications,” said Rep. Gus Bilirakis, lead Republican co-sponsor. “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.”

Background on the TACT Act

Patients’ access to the appropriate cancer treatment within a reasonable time frame is increasingly challenged by our complex health care delivery system. This is especially true for oral cancer drugs. Pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs), health insurance plan sponsors, and specialty and mail order pharmacies are notorious for slowing down the process by which patients receive their oral cancer drugs, even in cases where an oncology practice can provide those drugs at the site of care via an in-house pharmacy or dispensing facility. In some cases, PBMs etc. even disallow the drugs prescribed.

The TACT Act provides a simple solution by requiring that patients be provided their oral cancer drugs within an acceptable time frame of 72 hours, allowing for situations – such as acquiring financial support – that are understandable and acceptable.

Specifically, the bill will: 

  • Require PBMs, plan sponsors, insurers, and pharmacies, including specialty and mail order pharmacies, to ensure that a cancer patient is able to receive his or her prescription medication within 72 hours of having the prescription submitted to the patient’s pharmacy benefit plan provider in order to ensure that there is not undo delay in the initiation of the patient’s cancer treatment;
  • Allow patients who are not able to receive their prescription from a pharmacy benefit plan provider within 72 hours to seek pharmacy services and receive their prescription medication from any other duly-licensed entity that can fill the patient’s prescription and require that it be covered under the patient’s plan with full use of the patient’s applicable benefit(s);
  • Require pharmacy benefit plan providers receiving the prescription to confirm within 24 hours to the patient’s prescriber receipt of the prescription and the ability to fill it within the 72-hour period; and
  • Require that any prior authorization required by the pharmacy benefit plan provider take place in such a time that the 72-hour time limit is not exceeded.

“Patients facing cancer must be able to receive the medications their doctors prescribe in a timely manner, without unnecessary delays by PBMs. The TACT Act of 2021 helps overcome the tremendous barriers to patient care that oncologists have, unfortunately, become all too familiar with,” said Kashyap Patel, M.D., President of the Community Oncology Alliance (COA) and a practicing medical oncologist at Carolina Blood and Cancer Care in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “Cancer is deadly and can evolve quickly. Patients have enough on their hands dealing with the disease without fighting middlemen to get their drugs. Thanks to Congresswoman Sewell for her leadership along with Congressman Bilirakis in introducing a bipartisan bill that empowers patients with cancer. I hope others in Congress will join them in supporting this important legislation.”

The TACT Act can be found here.

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