Medicare Cost Control?

Long-time readers will know that I am skeptical of the FDA. Let’s ignore that for the purpose of this post. Now consider the following two quotes.

The FDA recommended unanimously that Avastin no longer be used to treat breast cancer, saying that the risks of the drug far outweighed any benefits.

…”Even though we have anecdotal information, we don’t have evidence that it prolongs survival or improves quality of life,” said Natalie Compagni-Portis, a patient representative and voting member of the FDA panel. In a series of four questions, the six-member panel voted across the board that the clinical trials conducted by Genentech did not provide evidence that Avastin prolonged life for breast cancer patients, nor did it improve their quality of life. The panel also recommended that FDA commissioner Peggy Hamburg should not continue to allow the drug to be used for breast cancer patients.

A strong statement from the FDA. Now compare:

Medicare will continue to cover Avastin for breast cancer treatment even if U.S. Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Peggy Hamburg decides to withdraw Avastin for such use, according to Don McLeod, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid.

“The FDA decision, when it comes, does not affect CMS,” McLeod told Reuters.

How does this make sense? Does CMS have information that runs counter to the FDA’s information? If so, let’s hear it. Or is this just a turf war? What does this say about the prospects for cost control of Medicare?


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