Medicare cuts pit patients needing chemo against cancer and Congress

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by JIM DOUGLAS

WFAA

Posted on April 22, 2013 at 9:39 PM

FORT WORTH, Texas — At The Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, patients get treatment in a personal setting. They're in the fight of their lives, battling cancer... and now Congress.

"Your main concern is dealing with the disease," said five-year cancer survivor Truitt Clinard. "This is a small setting. You know who's taking care of you."

But cancer centers across the U.S. are starting to turn away thousands of patients, blaming 2 percent cuts in Medicare funding for chemotherapy drugs.

The alternative, saud Dr. Bibas Reddy, is treatment at hospitals. That can be harder on patients — and more expensive.  

"We're trying to keep patients alive longer and longer, and potentially talk about cure rates," Dr. Reddy said. "And now we're being told by the government you might not be able to provide that. And that's very difficult to do." 

Pharmacist John Clagg says the annual hit for the clinic could be "easily close to a quarter million dollars."  

For instance: The cost for a single dose of the lung cancer drug Alimta is about $2,800. But because the drug must be administered in a medical setting, Clagg said the end cost can be closer to $5,000.

Oncologists and patients are pushing lawmakers to restore chemo funding cuts caused by the budget sequester. Notices on the clinic walls encourage patients to contact lawmakers and lists their phone numbers.

So far, the Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders has not turned away patients. But Dr. Reddy dreads the day he has to deliver that news to someone already fighting to survive.

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