'Step Therapy' Bill Headed to RI State House
By: Kainani Stevens
PROVIDENCE, RI (WLNE)----A bill aimed at changing the use of ‘step therapy’ in Rhode Island has passed the Senate and is headed to the House.
Step Therapy also known as “fail first” requires patients who are prescribed expensive medications by their doctors to take and "fail" on cheaper medications first. Only after that will, health insurance providers cover the more expensive drugs.
“I really believe this piece of legislation will save lives,” said Rich Pezzillo, a hemophilia patient. “And it's not just hemophilia, its epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, you name it. This affects everyone.”
Pezzillo suffers from hemophilia, a condition where a person's blood doesn't clot normally. He gives himself an injection every other day in order to stay healthy. It's a treatment he says he would never be able to afford without insurance.
“This single dose of clotting factor costs $2,000,” said Pezzillo. “I can’t imagine not having access to this drug through insurance. The cost to the patients would be astronomical. I don't know anyone who could afford it.”
Other patients seeking expensive treatment aren't as fortunate. Many are required to go through several cheaper medications before being approved by their insurers.
Brown University medical student Brittany Ricci, who also suffers from Crohn's Disease knows the process all too well.
"I went on the cheaper medication hoping I would still get a good response but I ended up having to get three surgeries over the course of about 5 weeks,” explained Ricci. “All while I was in medical school I was trying to deal with the complications."
The bill under consideration at the state house wouldn't ban step therapy but would make it easier for doctor’s to override the step therapy process in certain cases. Now seeing the issue from a doctor and patient point of view, Ricci believes this bill offers a good middle ground.
"I'm going into medicine so that I can help patients and make them feel at their best,” said Ricci. “I hope that when I'm practicing I can choose a medication that I feel comfortable putting the patient on as well as a medication that my patient feels comfortable taking.”