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Association for Clinical Oncology: More Testing, Personal Protective Equipment, Practice Support Needed During COVID-19 Crisis


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The Association for Clinical Oncology, ASCO's affiliated 501(c)(6) organization, is urging the White House and leaders in Congress to swiftly work together to meet the needs of patients and health-care professionals in response to the COVID-19 crisis.

Monica Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO

Monica Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO

In a letter to the President, Vice President, and leaders of the House and Senate, Monica Bertagnolli, MD, FACS, FASCO, Chair of the Board of the Association for Clinical Oncology, said, “The longer this crisis continues, the more delays there will be in screening, diagnosis, and treatment of cancer, which … poses significant risks to people with cancer and those at high risk of developing cancer.”

The letter urges leaders to take immediate action on several issues to help mitigate those harms. These recommendations are summarized here:

  • Increase the availability of testing for vulnerable patients and health-care professionals. ASCO applauds the quick action taken to ease regulatory burdens to speed approval of tests. However, its members continue to express concerns that there is a lack of testing for patients and staff. This is particularly critical for the cancer community, since many people with cancer have more than one chronic health condition, are immunocompromised, and are at an increased risk for complications or worse outcomes if they develop COVID-19.
  • Increase the availability of personal protective equipment for health-care professionals and patients. ASCO’s members are hearing of situations where physicians must extend the use of personal protective equipment for many days or potentially weeks. This is not safe and compounds the risks to both patients and practitioners during this crisis.
  • Provide support for physician practices to ensure uninterrupted patient access to care. ASCO strongly supports the recommendation to postpone elective and nonessential procedures and screenings at this time; however, these changes will result in financial hardship for practices and their staff. ASCO is asking lawmakers to consider additional financial aid and support for practices so that they can stay open and provide care for patients now and after this crisis. In particular, ASCO is calling on Congress to provide permanent relief from sequester reductions as well as interest-free loans to practices.
  • Continue to support the use of telehealth. ASCO applauds the steps already taken to expand the use of telehealth and urges the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to continue to clarify the parameters of telehealth. ASCO also urges lawmakers to ensure all payers allow for expanded use of telehealth.
  • Implement policies to address drug shortages. ASCO urges Congress to prioritize the U.S. Food and Drug Administration review of drugs in shortage, increase manufacturer reporting and transparency, and spur agency coordination to reduce the number of drugs in shortage or at risk of manufacturing issues.

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