New Medicare rules for a small but promising class of cancer drugs may cause thousands of lymphoma patients to lose access to the treatment, which in some cases is the only therapy available to them.
The drugs' makers and patient advocacy groups say the changes will sharply cut reimbursement for the medicines next year, and they predict that many hospitals will stop offering the treatments. The Medicare changes come just as new data provides additional evidence that the medicines, called Bexxar and Zevalin, are effective.
The drugs are given to treat non-Hodgkins lymphoma, the fifth-most-common cancer, and are usually prescribed for patients who have not responded to other therapies and who have few remaining treatment options. Clinical trial data show that they put the disease into remission for years in many of those patients.