New PA law hopes to break down 'financial barrier' for cancer patients seeking clinical trial care
ERIE, P.A (WICU-WSEE/CW) – For Brenda Berchtold, it’s been a 32-year ordeal with cancer, which started when she was just 22.
She's 54 now and says she feels the best she has in years, as she’s been able to attend events like the weddings of her children, something she didn't think would be possible just a few years ago.
With the cancer-fighting back her chemotherapy treatment, her doctors told her she was running out of options and time
"And she said there's one more thing we can try if you would like, and I said absolutely I’ll try it." Berchtold said
The option was paying a visit to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland for a clinical trial, using an experimental immunotherapy drug.
And for the last six years, Brenda and her husband Brian, have continued to make the 732-mile trek three times a month. Brenda says she spends roughly $300 on travel each trip.
And with all that travel, the costs were adding up, needing a solution, Brenda reached out to the non-profit organization Lazarex Cancer Foundation.
The California-based group is the only organization who provides reimbursement to cancer patients for their travel expenses.
Not only did they help cover a percentage the Berchtold's travel costs, but they've opened the door to help others state-wide.
The bi-partisan PA House Bill 126 was recently signed in Harrisburg, and Lazarex had a helping hand in getting the conversation started.
“Pennsylvania is making a statement, they're saying we are open for business to get cancer patients to trials and we're serious about getting cancer drugs to market.” Founder of Lazarex Cancer Foundation Dana Dornsife said “And that makes all the difference in the world."
And the Berchtold’s are all about it.
“What I had set way back when, I’m seeing all this come true, and the clinical trial made it happen." Berchtold said
Lazarex does not cover the cost of co-pays or deductibles for the treatments themselves, the treatments can be expensive, so it would help to have a strong insurance backing.