“The drug manufacturers have been great to give it to me for free,’’ he said, “but it just sucks because of the financial quality of life.
“I could have been saving money for a house, started a business, saved for retirement,’’ Webb said. “I can’t do any of that because of the cost of the drug.’’
Webb, who holds an MBA degree, said all he’s ever wanted is “to be successful at business.’’ But the choice between career and medication was not very difficult.
“It wasn’t even an option,’’ he said, “once you get over the fact and realize being alive and spending time with my wife and family is way more important than business … it’s just one of the things that goes along with the diagnosis. And you learn to live with it.’’
Vanessa Vicente, community outreach manager for the Southern Florida Chapter of the Leukemia Lymphoma Society, said Webb’s story illustrates the complex challenges that cancer patients deal with on a regular basis.
“These are the kinds of decisions that I think most people are really unaware of,’’ she said.
And more people may be forced to choose between their lifestyle and their medication because the trend in cancer treatment has been toward pills that target cancerous cells only and generally have fewer and milder side effects than traditional chemotherapy.
“This is what the future is going to be like with all types of cancers,’’ Vicente said.
There are more than two dozen oral cancer medications that do not have an intravenous or injectable equivalent, including Sprycel, and Gleevec, the pill that Webb was first prescribed after his diagnosis.
According to the House analysis of the proposed bills, more than 25 percent of the 400 chemotherapy drugs in development are planned as oral medications.
The analysis cites Pharmaceutical Executive magazine as stating that patient out-of-pocket costs for oral cancer medicine averaged $2,942 in 2009, which represented a 17 percent increase over the costs in 2008.
But a wave of states have been pushing back on insurance companies that do not cover the pills the same way they cover traditional chemotherapy treatments.
Between 2008 and April 2013, 22 states and the District of Columbia have enacted oral chemotherapy parity laws, and all of them have prohibited insurers from raising rates on intravenous and injectable chemotherapy treatment, Benacquisto said.
Webb said he’s been following the bills’ progress in the Florida Legislature — though the bill may not help Webb, who is enrolled in a grandfathered health plan, if the current House version prevails.
But Webb said he’s not pushing for the legislation for his own benefit.
“We’re doing it for everybody in Florida,’’ he said.
Besides, he added, he’s holding out hope for something bigger in the future.
“I’m optimistic that five years from now there will be a cure,’’ he said, “and I won’t even have to worry about this.’’