In a story titled somewhat cryptically Medicare chief stands by anemia move (do they mean he’s trying to become anemic?) Reuters reports that CMS is not backing down from its decision to radically cut payments for anti-anemia drugs for chemotherapy patients. In English this means that Amgen’s Arenesp (& Epogen, though that’s not officially for cancer patients) and J&J’s Procit (which is Epogen re-marketed by J&J) are not going to recover their lost sales from last year. Those sales began to be lost when studies revealed that the fairly rampant use of those drugs was overuse, and also that they were causing some severe side-effects.
Of course for reasons that we all know (e.g. they have little to do with clinical endpoints and more to do with financial ones), community oncologists have flipped out. I do like the response from Dr. Barry Straube, the chief medical officer at CMS. He said:
Our staff looked at over 800 evidenced-based articles published in the literature," he said. "I doubt seriously whether most clinicians read all 800."
Of course the real impact of this was not on patients per se, but on Amgen’s stock price, which has not had the best of years. The little rally late last year was on hopes that CMS would change its mind. I’m afraid that that gravy train looks like it’s over.