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Medicare's Coverage of Off-Label Cancer Treatments Mixed

Armen Hareyan's picture

Medicare's decision to pay for unapproved drugs to treat cancer is being met with both praise and criticism.

Cancer doctors demanded the move because it enables cancer patients to receive the most up-to-date care and, in some cases, these off-label treatments may represent a patient's last hope, The New York Times reported.

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Supporters of the decision, announced late last year, also say it will improve understanding of which treatments work against various types of cancer.

However, critics contend the use of drugs not approved by the Food and Drug Administration may waste money and needlessly expose cancer patients to side effects without offering them any benefits.

A cost analysis of the changes was canceled by Medicare, so it's difficult to determine how much the new policy will add to the $2.4 billion Medicare paid in 2007 for cancer drugs, the Times reported.