Congress Asked Not To Intervene In CMS Decision On Anemia Drugs

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Anemia Drugs

A coalition of consumer groups led by the Center for Science in the Public Interest and Consumers Union on Tuesday in a letter asked Congress not to intervene in a recent decision by CMS that will limit Medicare coverage for use of anemia medications -- Aranesp, manufactured by Amgen, and Procrit, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson -- in cancer patients, The Hill reports (Young, The Hill, 10/18).

Accordingto a 61-page "national coverage determination" announced in July,Medicare will cover the medications, synthetic forms of the proteinerythropoietin, to treat anemia caused by chemotherapy but not anemiacaused by cancer. Under the decision, Medicare will cover themedications to treat anemia in cancer patients whose hemoglobin levelsdecrease to less than 10 grams per deciliter of blood. The decisionwill allow local Medicare contractors to determine whether to cover themedications to treat patients with myelodysplastic syndrome, acondition that can lead to leukemia (Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report, 10/17).

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Last month, Reps. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) and Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) introduced a Congressional Review Act joint resolution (HJ Res 54) that would require CMS to reverse the decision. Amgen, J&J, the American Society of Clinical Oncology, the American Society of Hematology, patient advocacy groups, and for-profit cancer and kidney dialysis centers support the legislation.

Letter Details

In the letter, the coalition -- which includes the National Research Center for Women and Families, the National Women's Health Network, the TMJ Association and the U.S. Public Interest Research Group-- wrote, "Congress should set broad policy objectives and standardsfor Medicare, but congressional intervention regarding coveragepolicies for specific medical products would set a terrible precedent" (The Hill, 10/18).

Theletter added, "It would encourage companies making medical products aswell as medical specialty organizations to constantly ask members ofCongress to override scientific evidence and spend taxpayer dollarsneedlessly on products whose sale would benefit those companies orspecialties more than they benefit patients" (Edney, CongressDaily, 10/18).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. Youcan view the entire Kaiser DailyHealth Policy Report, search the archives, and sign up for email deliveryat kaisernetwork.org/email. The Kaiser Daily Health Policy Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, afree service of The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.

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