Medicare expands coverage for cancer drugs


There's word today of a broad change in Medicare drug coverage that spells relief for cancer patients but could mean a major new expense for the government.

Medicare is expanding its coverage to allow reimbursement for some so-called "off-label" use of cancer drugs. That is, drugs prescribed in a way not specifically approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Medicare announced the change in a news release June 5, but it went largely unnoticed until picked up by The New York Times today.

A spokesman for the American Society of Clinical Oncology says the eased reimbursement policy will reduce "the hassle factor."

But because cancer drugs often can cost thousands of dollars a month, the decision is sparking controversy. Consumers Union thinks Medicare should take a second look at the policy. A spokesman says in some cases, there's very small gain but at great cost.

(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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