March 2011: The Ohio Hematology Oncology Society (OHOS) serves 192 members of the oncology community in the Buckeye State. In the interview that follows, OHOS Executive Director Dave Dillahunt, CAE, discusses with ASCO Connection the organization’s activities surrounding off-label drug use.
AC: What services does OHOS provide to members? How many current members does the society have?
Mr. Dillahunt: OHOS provides the typical association services to members including education, advocacy, assistance, and communications.
AC: What unique challenges do oncology professionals face in Ohio?
Mr. Dillahunt: Our members are facing the same issues as other community oncologists around the country—declining reimbursement, increasing patient workload, and increasing administrative burdens from government and private insurers. Coupled with those are state government budget issues that may have an impact on practices.
AC: Why is the issue of off-label use important to OHOS? What obstacles are your members facing within Ohio regarding this issue?
Mr. Dillahunt: The off-label use of chemotherapy drugs is important to our patients. The quickness in which clinical trials provide new ways to utilize drugs requires insurers to recognize the value of off-label use when appropriate. Insurers have gotten better at keeping up with the off-label changes (especially Palmetto GBA), but still take an inordinate amount of time to recognize and accept the changes.
AC: Why or how was OHOS and its membership uniquely important in addressing the issue of off-label use?
Mr. Dillahunt: The Society serves as the Off-Label Committee for Palmetto GBA when examining the appropriateness of specific drugs. Our members have the expertise and real-world experiences in using these drugs and bring that expertise to the table when meeting with the local Medicare contractor. We were also instrumental in educating legislators on the importance of access to off-label indications.
AC: What activities has OHOS undertaken on this issue? What has been accomplished? What are the future goals or activities?
Mr. Dillahunt: Outside of the Off Label Committee activities, the Society was involved in the introduction of legislation in the Ohio House of Representatives last year that would update Ohio law to reflect the changes made in federal laws based on the medical compendia and peer-reviewed journals. The bill passed the House unanimously, but we ran out of time in the legislative session to get it considered by the Ohio Senate. We plan on having the bill re-introduced again this year.
AC: Aside from your work in off-label use, what does the future hold for OHOS?
Mr. Dillahunt: Several things. We have started to work more closely with insurers to help them understand why it is important to them for the community oncologist to remain economically viable. We will also continue our work with the Ohio Legislative Cancer Caucus (which we helped create) to help them better understand the unique challenges of cancer patients and caregivers in Ohio.