A study linking higher doses of a Johnson & Johnson anemia drug to heart risk prompted a U.S. lawmaker to renew questions about Medicare's policy on Amgen Inc.'s identical medicine.
The Medicare plan for the elderly and disabled, including people with failed kidneys, is buying excess doses of the erythropoietin anemia drug, Rep. Bill Thomas (R-Bakersfield), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, said in a letter Wednesday.
The study, published Thursday in the New England Journal of Medicine, adds to research questioning the benefit of exceeding the Food and Drug Administration's recommended erythropoietin doses, Thomas said. Medicare in April relaxed a standard on payments in which this limit was exceeded. Thousand Oaks-based Amgen sells its Epogen erythropoietin for dialysis patients.
Medicare "is not aggressive enough to stem the systematic abuse of Epogen, resulting in costs to taxpayers and potential health dangers to patients," Thomas said in the letter to the Medicare agency.
In April, Medicare raised its limit, drawing an initial protest letter from Thomas. The agency is reviewing Wednesday's letter, a Medicare spokesman said.
Amgen shares fell $1.17, or 1.6%, to $72.44.