Anemia drug rebates challenged

An established practice under which pharmaceutical companies offer physicians discounts on some anemia drugs is coming under fire, with critics arguing that the discounts could unduly influence how often the drugs are prescribed. A trio of anemia drugs, including Amgen's Aranesp and Epogen and Johnson & Johnson's Procrit, accounted for a whopping $10 billion in sales last year. To promote their use, both drugmakers offer physicians volume discounts on the drugs, which practices purchase to dispense in their offices. Since doctors can then bill health plans at a higher rate, these medications can be big moneymakers for them. Critics say that such practices have boosted the use of anemia drugs to potentially unsafe levels, particularly within high-volume dialysis chains. Others contend that patients with mild or moderate anemia may not be benefiting from these drugs at all.

To learn more about this issue:
- read this New York Times article

PLUS: FDA staffers say that there is not enough data to ensure that two blockbuster anemia drugs--Amgen's Aranesp and J&J's Procrit--are safe when taken by patients receiving chemotherapy. Report

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