Yes, Repealing The Medical Device Tax Really Would Be A Good Thing

Erika Hanson Brown Founder, COLONTOWN
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In his article, “Will Senate Republicans Put Lobbyists Ahead Of Hometown Voters?” Ken Hoagland clings to a political argument against repeal of the medical device tax, holding that repeal will undercut the ability of lawmakers to push for more comprehensive reform at a later date. As a cancer survivor who has personally benefitted from medical imaging technology, I can tell you that what we really need to do is forget about politics and look at the patients who are adversely affected by the tax. The impact of this devastating tax on investments in R&D threatens the quality of life for patients across the country.

Medical imaging’s contribution to the fight against cancer has been profound, providing physicians and researchers with unprecedented insight into how the disease affects the human body. Advances in medical imaging have facilitated the development of new, innovative approaches to detect, diagnose, monitor and treat this deadly disease. Today, countless lives are saved thanks to early detection through advanced imaging.

I was diagnosed in August 2002 with colon cancer through a colonoscopy. The next day I had a computed tomography (CT) scan which informed the approximate size of the tumor and showed possible signs of cancer of the liver and spleen. I underwent surgery and my entire colon was “redesigned” with the removal of the tumor, my spleen, and 12 lymph nodes. I was prescribed the gold standard of chemotherapy for that time and told that, if I followed the six month regimen, I just might “make it,” and become that “one patient in a million.”

More than 12 years later, I am considered “NED” (no evidence of disease). I’m one of the lucky few who’ve beaten stage III cancer and have not experienced any progression of the disease. Many – though not all – colorectal cancer patients succumb to the disease within three years.

The good news is that the death rate (the number of deaths per 100,000 people per year) from colorectal cancer has been dropping for more than 20 years. There are a number of plausible reasons for this decline, but the most significant one is that screening is allowing more colorectal cancers to be found earlier, when the disease is easier to treat.

Not only is imaging critical to diagnosis, but it plays a vital role in tracking a patient’s progression. In my case, CT and positron emission tomography (PET) scans played a crucial role in monitoring my condition and assessing how my body responded to my chemotherapy treatment. And I’m not alone: many studies have shown PET to be effective in staging various types of lung cancer, Hodgkin’s lymphoma and colorectal cancer, and determining if cancer cells have spread to lymph nodes — all without lifting a scalpel.

The bottom line is this: without imaging scans, my doctors would have virtually no knowledge of what the cancer was doing inside my body. How can you treat something you can’t see?

Throughout my journey, I have met dozens of patients in a similar situation who rely on imaging. That’s why I fear that the medical device tax will slow the development and introduction of new, life-saving medical technologies, like the ones that are keeping me and millions of other patients alive. Repealing this tax is essential to ensuring access to the right scan at the right time. This is not about politics – it’s about my future.