Friday Frontline: Ohio Law Eliminates ‘Fail First’ Insurance Provision for Patients with Stage 4 Cancer, COVID-19 Becomes the Third Leading Cause of Death Behind Cancer And More

December 25, 2020
Conor Killmurray

From the Ohio state legislature tackling the “fail first” provision insurances put in place to keep patients with advanced cancer on generic drugs that are less effective to COVID-19 becoming the third leading cause of death in the United States behind cancer, here’s what happened in the cancer landscape this week.

Ohio Governor Mike DeWine has signed into law a new piece of legislation that will give patients with stage 4 cancer immediate access to newer, targeted cancer therapies.

The new bill eliminates the “fail first” option from being considered when the insurance would want the patient to first try a drug the insurance prefers and fail on that one. According to experts, who worked on the bill with lawmakers, this will save the patients time by avoiding generic less effective treatments and making them readily considered for newer therapies.

The bill was a bi-partisan effort from Ohio state lawmakers in conjunction with The Ohio State University Comprehensive Cancer Center and makes all insurers in Ohio eliminate the “fail first” provision.

While small business owner Marie Liburdi lost her Teaching Toys toy store due to COVID-19, she was able to donate her last bit of inventory to pediatric patients with cancer.

Liburdi lost two businesses due to COVID-19 shutdowns, but instead of clearing her inventory she donated all of her toys to The Bottomless Toy Chest, a Michigan nonprofit that delivers toys to pediatric patients with cancer going through treatment. The number of toys Liburdi donated added up to the thousands, a gift the children won’t soon forget.

"To get these toys at this time is really going to help us not only be able to continue our program but to expand it," Mickey Guisewite, executive director of the Bottomless Toy Chest he started the charity in her son’s honor, said in an interview.

Cancer survivor Jake Teitelbaum is looking to give back to young patients with cancer by sprucing up their treatment wardrobes with customized non-slip hospital socks.

Teitelbaum met his friend Zamari in chemotherapy and they both bonded over the fact that their tacky, beige, ugly non-slip socks stood out to them. To combat that, Zamari made custom socks that helped her feel better and stand out more. Together the two started creating more designs that they shared online with other going through cancer, and Teitelbaum was able to found Resilience Gives to sell and donate the socks to patients with cancer who wanted them.

"We started having a lot of people sending in photos of themselves wearing Zamari's socks out and about. And for this 14-year-old who was battling non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, it was this little bright spot of, 'Wow, there are all these people out in the world thinking of me as I'm going through this journey,” Teitelbaum said in an interview. Now partnered with the Paying It Forward Initiative they plan to donate 10,000 pairs to children hospitals across the country.

2020 is the deadliest year in U.S. history as the country is on track to see more than 3.2 million deaths this year as the COVID-19 death toll rises, now the third leading cause of death behind heart disease and cancer.

In 2019, overall deaths saw an increase in large part due to lung cancer deaths being prevented by treatment, but this year has seen a 15% year over year increase thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on other mortality risks. By the end of 2020 overall life expectancy could have dropped by 3 years.

“This would mark the largest single-year percentage leap since 1918, when tens of thousands of U.S. soldiers died in World War I and hundreds of thousands of Americans died in a flu pandemic,” stated a report from the Associated Press.