(Bloomberg News) Adding cancer to the ailments covered by special funds set up for responders to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks would bring relief for some, and decrease payouts for everyone else, the head of one of the funds said.
Sheila Birnbaum, special master of the $2.8 billion compensation fund that reimburses victims for non-medical losses, said she'd cover cancer patients if a second treatment fund decides to handle the cost of their medical care. Such a move, though, would spread both funds thinner, and cause the money to run out more quickly, she said in an interview.
A public hearing in New York today on the question comes five months after a study found a 19 percent higher risk for cancer among first responders to the 2001 attacks. That report spurred politicians, disease advocates and cancer victims such as Tom Fay, 55, of Wall Township, New Jersey, to urge that the law be changed to include the disease.
"I'm going there today, going to give them a piece of my mind as to what I've been through," said Fay, who links his blood cancer to the 12 hours he spent volunteering two days after the attack. "I want my life back."
Fay, married with three grown children, was completely broke, losing his job after he advised an employer he had been diagnosed with blood cancer, when the Jersey Shore University Medical Center in Neptune, New Jersey, agreed to treat him even though he didn't have insurance.
$5,000 a Shot
While Fay doesn't know the total costs of the treatment, he said he received the cancer drug Neulasta, which he was told cost $5,000 a shot, once a day for 18 days, he said. Neulasta, made by Amgen Inc., is prescribed to lower risk of infection in patients taking chemotherapy that suppresses the immune system. The drug drew $3.56 billion in 2010 revenue for Amgen, the world's biggest biotechology company, as its top-seller.
Fay is now waiting for results from a biopsy taken Feb. 10 for possible skin cancer, he said.
"I was a volunteer firefighter, I was paid nothing" for responding to the attack, Fay said in a telephone interview today. "And you know what, as a person who loves his country with every ounce of blood in my body, I'd do it again. All I'm asking for is some help from my country."
He's worried, he said, that the next time a disaster comes, nobody will help because of what is happening to those who responded on September 11, 2001.