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Ohio Senate Unanimously Passes Bill Banning 'Fail First' Treatment For Cancer Patients

The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
The James Cancer Hospital at the Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

This week the Ohio Senate unanimously approved SB 252, which prohibits health care providers from requiring advanced-stage cancer patients try the cheapest medication first. 

The common practice among health insurance companies, called "fail first," requires patients to try a cheaper, possibly less effective drug before getting approval for a more expensive, more effective one.

That can waste valuable time, says Dr. David Cohn, chief medical officer of the Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center.

"SB 252 allows the patient to get the right treatment at the right time for their exact type of cancer without having to go through that extra scrutiny by the insurance company, which could lead to a denial of the recommended treatment," he says. 

The bill will allow physicians to prescribe the most effective treatment, even if it is more costly. Cohn says that will improve the chance of having the cancer controlled quickly.

However, Cohn notes that physicians should always strive for cost savings, as long as it doesn’t impact the quality of care.

"One of the things physicians want to avoid is the physical side effects of treatment," he says, "but also the financial side effects of cancer treatment."