Patients harmed by Medicare anemia drug policy

A new survey has concluded that specialists feel Medicare's new anemia drug payment limits are hurting cancer patients. Bearing in mind that the study was sponsored by U.S. Oncology, which helps manage 443 cancer centers in 39 states, the results are still worth considering.

To gather information, researchers surveyed 307 physicians from Nov. 26, 2007 to Dec. 11, 2007, limiting the number of physicians affiliated with U.S. Oncology to 20 percent. The survey found that 91 percent of oncologists and hematologists reported adverse patient events in the 12 weeks after Medicare's July 30 implementation of its policy on erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESA). (CMS now limits payment for ESA treatment to a maximum of eight weeks after a chemotherapy session, and requires doctors to wait until a patient's hemoglobin levels drop below 10 g/dL before starting them on ESAs.)

The most common adverse events reported were transfusions that would have been avoided if Medicare's old anemia drug policy was in place, with 73 percent reporting such an outcome. And sixty-five percent said they had a patient remain symptomatic for anemia when following the new drug guidelines.

To learn more about the study:
- read this American Medical News article

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