Medicare panel to review anemia meds

Should Amgen and Johnson & Johnson be worried? Medicare is convening a group of experts for advice on using the companies' blockbuster anemia drugs. The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wants the group to review the drugs--Procrit, Aranesp and Epogen--and their use in chronic kidney disease.

The three drugs have run into safety issues over the past couple of years, after studies showed that high doses increased the risk of heart problems and death. The FDA slapped black-box warnings on the drugs and some insurers, including Medicare, set reimbursement limits. Sales dropped.

If the panel--known as the Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee--recommends further restrictions, that could be another blow to both companies' revenue streams from the drugs. But taking the look-on-the-bright-side view, we suppose there's a chance the panel could loosen up those previously imposed limits. Meanwhile, though, Medicare is putting together rules for bundling dialysis service payments, and as Reuters notes, analysts expect these new regs will cut into the anemia meds' sales.

- read the Reuters piece