Why should Medicare pay for Lucentis?

The U.S. Senate wants to know why Medicare should have to spend millions on Genentech's eye drug Lucentis when the company's Avastin works almost as well against macular degeneration--and costs lots less.

Last week, Genentech said it would cut compounding pharmacists out of the Avastin loop. The move would complicate dispensing the cancer med to macular degeneration patients because compounding pharmacists repackage the cancer drug for ophthalmic use. A vial of Avastin for the eye costs $40 or so, compared with $2,000 for Lucentis.

In a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a Senate committee demanded to know how much the agency has spent on Lucentis and Avastin. And it wonders whether the center has considered how much it might save by using cheaper, alternative drugs--like Avastin. Meanwhile, the National Institutes of Health is pitting the two drugs against each other in a trial with macular degeneration patients.

- read the the item from the Wall Street Journal's Health Blog

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