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Medicare relaxes anemia drug limits

July 31, 2007|From Bloomberg News

Medicare, the U.S. health program for the elderly and disabled, Monday loosened proposed limits for use of Amgen Inc.'s and Johnson & Johnson's anemia drugs in cancer patients, opening more cases to potential coverage.

The agency will now allow the drugs, which mimic a chemical called erythropoietin that stimulates blood-cell growth, to be used by patients whose cancers bear proteins that may respond to the chemical, according to a statement sent by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

Proposed restrictions for using the drugs in patients without heart disease were also relaxed by the agency.

The centers originally proposed May 14 to limit use of the drugs to treat anemia in some cancer patients because of a potential risk of spurring tumor growth.

The agency had a 30-day public comment period before making its final decision.

"In the face of massive outcry from patients, cancer physicians and others in the cancer community," the centers backed off on the restrictions, said Geoff- rey Porges, an analyst with Sanford C. Bernstein & Co. in New York.

The medications are sold in the U.S. as Epogen and Aranesp, made by Amgen, based in Thousand Oaks, and Procrit, made by Johnson & Johnson, of New Brunswick, N.J.

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