by Gail McCray

American Society of Hematology (ASH) 2014 – Is the best science and treatment for MM accessible and affordable for everyone?

I am eagerly, but with loads of anxiety, looking forward to my first American Society of Hematology (ASH) Annual Meeting ever. We support group leaders have been forewarned about the crowded, fast-paced, and long days we will experience. As a health educator and a multiple myeloma (MM) patient, I subscribe wholeheartedly to the concept from Stanford University that “patients are some of the best and most underutilized experts in healthcare.” I look forward to sharing with you through my “newbie” lens, gaining exposure to the new science and pipeline drugs, satisfying some curiosities on getting the best science to patients in the most affordable and accessible ways, and learning more about the personalized medicine approaches we can expect. I will always have in the back of my mind the question of how the “end-users,” the patients, are best served in the whole scheme of things. A New York Times article from November 23 discussed how private oncologists are being forced out of practice due to ever-decreasing reimbursements, resulting in patients having to pay more for their care, with the quality of care sometimes suffering. Payment systems determine the price of care, what drug options a patient might be offered, and where patients are treated. Should patients who are poorer have less access to the best available science? Should healthcare providers be forced to practice medicine in a way that does not offer the best science? It seems insurers are in a business that encourages less science rigor – in lieu of higher profits. This is a sad commentary, because the whole point of ASH, to me, is to bring together the best minds, and share the best science that patients who depend on them should expect. There has to be a way that ‘appropriate’ profits can be realized – and all patients get the highest quality of treatment. With all the advancements in the cancer arena, a diagnosis of cancer still strikes huge fear in the strongest of us. Why should we also fear that the best medicine is tantalizingly close, but out of reach – except for a special select class? Surely we are a nation equipped with the intellect and compassion with “…justice for all.”

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