IOWA CITY (KWWL) -- Health officials argue clinical trials are one of the best ways to make progress in the fight against cancer, and a bill passed in the Iowa House this week may help encourage more participation.
"They're very, very important and there are many new treatments in the pipeline that we need to test to see if they work as well as we hope they do," Dr. George Weiner, Director of the University of Iowa Hospital and Clinic's Holden Comprehensive Cancer Center said.
Dr. Weiner cites clinical trials as the reason for a now 80 percent cure rate in children with leukemia.
However, only three percent of cancer patients nationally, and ten percent at his cancer center, participate in these trials. Weiner says the low numbers are hindering research efforts.
"It's a common problem cancer centers have across the country, that patients are concerned their standard medical costs won't be covered if they participate in a clinical trial," Dr. Weiner said.
A bill has already gone through the Iowa House that will force private insurers to cover routine doctor visits for cancer patients under experimental therapy.
The state's dominant health insurer, Wellmark Blue Cross/Blue Shield is supporting the bill.
"We do believe that it's important our members have access to clinical trials and giving them this access with as few hurdles as possible is going to result in the best care for them," said spokesman Rob Schweers.
"This is not going to fix our problem of not having enough patients on clinical trials but it's a very important step in the right direction," Weiner said.
Currently 28 states have similar laws in place.
Online Reporter: Jason Epner