Friday, April 12, 2013

Cancer care rationing begins in America as cancer clinics turn away thousands of Medicare patients

Cancer care rationing begins in America as cancer clinics turn away thousands of Medicare patients: Federal sequestration measures that came into effect on April 1 are making it impossible for many cancer clinics across the country to administer conventional care to patients, and particularly to those on Medicare. Consequently, thousands of cancer patients with taxpayer-funded insurance coverage are being turned away, according to reports, as clinics simply do not have the capacity nor the funding to administer expensive pharmaceutical-based treatments such as chemotherapy.




According to the Washington Post, many cancer clinics are having to turn away patients without adequate coverage, or else face potential closure of their practices. Since many of the latest cancer drugs now cost upwards of $35,000 or more per year, it is grossly unsustainable to deliver such treatments to patients without adequate insurance coverage -- doing so would spell financial suicide for even the most successful and well-funded cancer clinics.




"If we treated the patients receiving the most expensive drugs, we'd be out of business in six months to a year," said Jeff Vacirca, chief executive of North Shore Hematology Oncology Associates in New York, to the Washington Post. "The drugs we're going to lose money on we're not going to administer right now."





Back in October, the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, another New York-based cancer center, announced that it would not be administering an expensive new cancer drug known as Zaltrap (ziv-afilbercept), a Sanofi-Aventis creation designed to treat metastatic colorectal cancer. According to an op-ed piece published by The New York Times (NYT), an average month's worth of treatment with Zaltrap costs more than $11,000, or more than $132,000 per year.




"We don't sugar-coat things, we're cancer doctors," explained Charles Holladay, an oncologist at the Charleston Cancer Center in South Carolina, to the Washington Post. Holladay's facility began informing many of its government-covered patients several weeks ago that they would have to seek out alternative treatment options.


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