A missive from Karl came in today detailing how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is proposing to cut reimbursements for two radioimmunotherapy drugs to less than their cost. Their collective response to the Deputy Administrator of CMS can be viewed in PDF or HTML.
The two immunotherapy drugs in question are Bexxar (I-131 tositumomab) and Zevalin (Y-90 ibritumomab). They are among the most effective drugs used to treat lymphoma, a cancer that strikes 1 in every 50 people in the US with over 500,000 patients now living with the disease.
Since most health insurance companies use Medicare reimbursement rates as their basis for cost coverage, the proposed change in reimbursement will have broad impact on lymphoma patients living with the disease. What does this mean to lymphoma patients? Some hospitals may discontinue use of these drugs (unless they want to subsidize the costs) and the resulting reduction in their use will provide disincentives for drug companies to develop future therapies for lymphoma. Most importantly and most acutely, patients will be denied the most effective therapies for this disease, one which can be put into prolonged or complete remissions with treatment regimens that include radioimmunotherapy.
If you care to respond to this insanity, Lymphomation.org makes it very easy for you to fill in four lines of information to register your support for their letter urging CMS to reconsider this dangerous and disturbing precedent.