Florida Senate Passes The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act! Remembering Patient Advocate Debbie Giardina.

Did you know that some anti-cancer medications in the form of a pill are costing patients thousands of dollars each month because they are not covered under the benefit that intravenous (IV) medications are?

The Cancer Treatment Fairness Act, House Bill 301, which the Florida Senate just passed yesterday, will help grant fair access to the cancer treatment options prescribed to patients by their physicians. Florida Komen Affiliates, including the Miami/Ft. Lauderdale Affiliate, have been supporting this issue which would require that individual or group insurance policies that currently provide coverage for cancer treatment medications also provide coverage for orally administered cancer treatment medications.

On March 6, 2013, Florida Komen Affiliates traveled to Tallahassee for the Senate bill hearing. Our message is simple: it is time Florida joins the 22 other states across the country, and the District of Columbia, in granting equal access to life-saving cancer treatment drugs regardless of how they are administered.

Debbie Giardina was a local patient advocate dear to our hearts. In 2007, Debbie was diagnosed with breast cancer and went through six months of IV chemotherapy plus radiation and a double mastectomy. Debbie then learned her cancer had metastasized to the bones in her back and she counted on a new promising form of cancer therapy to fight her cancer. However, Debbie’s insurance company, like many others, only covered 50 percent of this drug expense because it was in a pill form, as opposed to IV form which is largely covered by insurance companies.

Debbie and her husband Sal pictured on the right

Debbie and her husband Sal saw themselves paying $2,000 a month with a credit card to cover the cost. A 2011 Miami Herald article stated Debbie was “among a growing number of cancer patients who find themselves unable to take advantage of the latest drugs because they can’t afford them and insurance won’t fully pay.” Debbie’s vow in supporting the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act was to be able to see her grandchildren grow up and spend time with her loving husband. As she told the Miami Herald, “nobody gets to put an expiration date on me”. Debbie was eventually able to get assistance through the drug company for her oral chemotherapy but there are many cancer patients that are not as lucky.

Debbie (sitting down on the right) and friends having a great time at the 2012 Cruise for the Cure

Unfortunately, Debbie’s battle with cancer ended on January 8, 2013 as her husband Sal and best friend Deborah Anthony sat by her side. Deborah Anthony, who had known Debbie since 1976, remembers Debbie “never complaining about feeling lousy and rarely feeling sorry for herself.” Deborah Anthony and Debbie went on many trips together, including four “Cruise for the Cure” events in the Bahamas.

Debbie (left) and best friend Deborah Anthony

“True friends like Debbie are hard to find… I have many friends but only Debbie was my BEST friend, there is something different about a best friend – we had that connection”, says Deborah Anthony.

We will always remember Debbie’s dynamic personality and strength. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

Click here to stay up to date on the Cancer Treatment Fairness Act as it goes to the Florida House.

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