An insurance company has denied potentially lifesaving experimental treatment to a 9-month-old cancer victim—because the treatment is experimental.
9-month old Connor Richardson suffers from Aggressive Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (ATRT), and aggressive brain cancer, which must be treated immediately to have any hope of success.
He was first diagnosed at 7 months. His parents took him to Stony Brook University Hospital in New York for the surgery. A post-op MRI showed that some of the tumor remained.
Connor was operated on a second time at Stony Brook. A follow-up exam at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, Tennesse, showed that the tumor had returned in the brain and had also spread to his spine.
Connor has had to endure two more operations, and is now undergoing chemotherapy at St. Jude.
St. Jude enrolled Connor in a clinical study of a new mix of chemotherapy drugs, which hopefully could arrest the progress of the notoriously aggressive cancer.
St. Jude is, after all, a research hospital—it takes in, free of charge, children who have little or no hope of surviving with conventional treatment. It is a last hope for children and families who face the scariest possible outcome.
Amid this heartbreaking battle for the life of his son, Wayne Richardson, allegedly received a letter from HIP Health Insurance, denying his son coverage.
Richardson claims the letter reads, in part: “The principal investigator has requested medications including methotrexate, cisplatin, cyclophosphamide, vincristine in combination with an investigational medication, alisertib.
“This combination of medications is not the standard of care for this type of cancer, and is considered experimental and investigational at this time, as evidence-based guidelines do not exist to confirm its effectiveness for his brain tumor.
“Therefore, this request for clinical trial treatment at St. Jude’s hospital is not medically necessary and is denied.”
The insurance company might feel that way. The doctors see no other option. After four operations, conventional treatments offer little hope.
“He’ll die if you don’t do it,” Richardson told The Daily Beast.
Richardson told The Daily Beast that he has been paying for HIP insurance since 1981 and has never been hospitalized. Now he’d like to get a little back—and the company denies him.
The Richardsons are actually extremely lucky. St. Jude pays for all medical expenses and even offers food and lodging vouchers to the families of patients. Connor will get his treatment, and the family will incur no costs.
However, St. Jude still has to pay bills. The money St. Jude gets from insurance companies funds the kind of clinical trials, which will hopefully save young Connor … and will hopefully save many other tiny patients.
“You’re taking away from them and their research—because the insurance doesn’t want to pay,” Richardson said.
There is a GoFundMe page for anyone who wants to help out.