Policy

Proposed Ohio law would expand coverage of off-label drug usage

House Bill 384 would bring Ohio law up to federal standards regarding when insurers would be required to cover the use of off-label drugs, according to its sponsor.

COLUMBUS, Ohio — A proposal introduced in the Ohio House of Representatives would expand health insurance coverage for off-label drug usage.

House Bill 384 would bring Ohio law up to federal standards regarding when insurers would be required to cover the use of off-label drugs, according to its sponsor, Linda Bolon, D-Columbiana. Off-label refers to using a drug to treat a condition other than for what the drug has received government approval — a common practice in medicine.

Bolon introduced the bill primarily to make it easier for patients to use off-label drugs in treating types of cancer. For example, some drugs that have been approved to treat breast cancer have proven effective in treating colon cancer, she said.

“I can’t imagine knowing there is something out there to save my life and I couldn’t have it,” she said.

In recent years, the federal government has expanded its compendia, or guides, for which off-label drug use is authorized. For example, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services allows use of off-label cancer drugs if two articles from major peer-reviewed professional medical journals have recognized the drug’s safety and effectiveness for off-label treatment.

Bolon said her proposal would bring Ohio laws up-to-date with federal guidelines. Thus far, Bolon has not heard any objections to the proposal from the state’s health insurers, she says.

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A spokeswoman for the Ohio Association of Health Plans, a trade group representing the state’s health insurers, wasn’t available for comment.

The bill has been assigned to the House’s Insurance Committee. The committee has not conducted hearings for it, Bolon said.