What Cancer Patients Want and What Medicare Covers May Differ

(Reuters Health) – When asked what Medicare should cover for cancer patients in their last months of life, many patients and their caregivers choose benefits the federal insurance does not offer, like home-based long term care and concurrent palliative care, according to a new study based on interviews.

Given an array of options, a limited budget and a chance to discuss the choices, patients and caregivers were not very likely to devote all coverage to curative cancer treatment, said lead author Donald H. Taylor Jr, of the Sanford School of Public Policy at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. (more…)

UPDATED: Merck Again Shipping BCG Cancer Treatment but Sanofi Still Is Not

Shortages of bladder cancer and tuberculosis treatment have persisted for two years

When a shortage of BCG vaccine used to treat tuberculosis and bladder cancer developed two years ago because of serious problems at a Sanofi ($SNY) Pasteur plant, the FDA asked Merck ($MRK) to pick up the slack. But Merck has had manufacturing issues that interrupted production that it is only now resolving.

Merck said in an email that a “potential manufacturing  issue” that arose in August 2014 has been addressed and that it has started to resupply Tice BCG. “In 2012, when Merck became the only source of this medicine in many countries, demand increased substantially. Merck has increased supply of Tice BCG by more than 100% over the past two years to meet this demand.” But given back orders, it said supplies will be limited through the rest of the year.  (more…)

The Great Debate: Investigating the Utility of Low-dose CT Lung Cancer Screening & Reimbursement

A big question mark sits over the topic of low-dose CT lung cancer screening. Since the April meeting of the Medicare Evidence Development & Coverage Advisory Committee (MedCAC), many are left wondering about the controversy over low-dose CT lung cancer screening (LDCT) and the eventual decision that will be made regarding Medicare reimbursement for screening. What does the research really reveal about its effectiveness, and what do proponents and opponents to reimbursement say about the contentious topic? (more…)

COA Director of Communications & Patient Advocacy, Rose Gerber (a cancer survivor), to Speak at P.A.C.T Congressional Briefing Today in Washington, D.C.

Congressional Lunch Briefing:

Patient Access to Community Treatment (PACT) Coalition


Patients are facing increasing challenges accessing specialized medical care in the community setting. Over the last several years, studies have illustrated that declining Medicare reimbursement and arbitrary budget cuts are causing community-based practices to close their doors or integrate with large hospital systems, affecting access and increasing costs.

Please join us to hear patients and Congressional staff share their perspectives on the importance of preserving access to quality, community-based care.

Thursday, September 11th from 12:00 p.m. – 1:00 p.m.

122 Cannon House Office Building


Howie Braun, Patient

Rose Gerber, Patient and Director of Patient Advocacy, Community Oncology Alliance

Clay Alspach, Chief Majority Health Counsel, Energy and Commerce Committee

Mitch Vakerics, Legislative Counsel, Representative Renee Ellmers

Taylor Booth, Legislative Director, Representative Ed Whitfield (INVITED)

Kim Corbin, Health Legislative Assistant, Senator Debbie Stabenow (INVITED)




The Patient Access to Community Treatment (PACT) coalition is an alliance of patient advocacy organizations, provider groups and health care distributors committed to ensuring that patients have access to quality, affordable, community-based care. PACT believes that policies, such as flawed Medicare Part B reimbursement formulas and federal budget cuts, are exacerbating a shift in site of care out of the community and into more expensive hospital systems, affecting both patients and the Medicare program.

Improving Access To High Quality Hospice Care: What Is The Optimal Path?

High quality hospice care is consistent with the country’s stated health care reform goals: hospice is person-centered, improves clinical outcomes such as pain and satisfaction, is provided by a multidisciplinary care team, is coordinated across care settings, reduces unnecessary hospitalizations, and saves health care dollars. Studies have consistently shown that hospice improves quality for patients and families by reducing symptom distress, improving caregiver outcomes, and reducing hospitalizations near the end of life, including emergency department visits and intensive care unit stays and hospital death. (more…)

U.S. Widens Program to Dispose of Prescription Drugs

(Reuters) – Americans will be able to dispose of unused prescription drugs at more sites under a Drug Enforcement Administration rule announced on Monday aimed at curbing rising drug addiction and abuse.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement that the new DEA policy would let prescription drugs be dropped off at hospitals, pharmacies, clinics and other authorized drop-off sites. (more…)

New Drug for Pancreatic Cancer Turned Down

A new drug that can extend the lives of pancreatic cancer sufferers has been turned down by the drugs rationing body as too expensive.

The NHS drugs rationing body has ruled that a drug for pancreatic cancer that can extend lives of patients is too expensive to be given before other treatments have been tried. (more…)

NICE ‘no’ for Celgene’s Abraxane in Pancreatic Cancer

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has published new recommendations rejecting the use of Celgene’s Abraxane (nab-paclitaxel) on the National Health Service to treat patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

According to the cost regulator, the drug, a novel formulation of the chemotherapy paclitaxel, is not as effective as standard therapy and is more expensive, and thereby fails to hit value-for-money criteria. (more…)

Two Types of Cancer Increase Among Children

Children’s kidney and thyroid cancers have increased in recent years, and though the diseases are rare, experts wonder if the rising rates could be related to obesity.

The rate for all childhood cancers combined, 171 cases per million children, remained stable from 2001 to 2009 although slight increases were seen in blacks and adolescents, according to a report from researchers at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (more…)

Researcher Urges Wider Genetic Screening For Breast Cancer

A prominent scientist has started a big new debate about breast cancer. Geneticist Mary-Claire King of the University of Washington, who identified the first breast cancer gene, is recommending that all women get tested for genetic mutations that can cause breast cancer.

“My colleagues and I are are taking a really bold step,” King said. “We’re recommending that all adult women in America, regardless of their personal history and regardless of their family history, be offered genetic testing for the breast cancer genes.” (more…)