Medicare: Right to restrict anemia meds

A Medicare official says there's an even better case now for restricting payments for Amgen and Johnson & Johnson's big anemia drugs. According to the agency's chief medical officer, two more studies have cast doubt on the safety of Aranesp, Epogen, and Procrit, which together generated more than $5 billion in sales in 2007. The drugs are one of the biggest prescription costs for Medicare.

You'll recall that last year, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services restricted its reimbursements for the drugs, after four studies suggested various safety problems, including a higher risk of death for patients using them. Now, the FDA has scheduled a hearing to consider two more studies that suggest the drugs are even more risky for some cancer patients. The companies and the American Society of Clinical Oncology continue to submit evidence for their argument that restricting the anemia drugs will only lead to an increase in blood transfusions.

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