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ESA’s Being Misused, Study Says

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Expensive drugs that boost red blood cells are being routinely misused in cancer patients, researchers say. The report, published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, raises concerns about both side effects and wasted resources.

A quarter of the time, they found patients got the so-called erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) for no more than a
week, which is too short to do much good.

According to recent estimates, Medicare spends more than $1 billion dollars annually on ESAs, which include products such as Amgen’s Epogen and Roche’s NeoRecormon.

The medications have been approved for cancer patients who are getting chemotherapy, and the recommended treatment is between two and 14 weeks. However, the benefits are cloudy and could be outweighed by side effects. The side effects include blood clots and heart problems, and in rare cases the drugs could even fuel tumor growth.

The research team used data on 21,000 Medicare beneficiaries with common cancers who’d been given an ESA, such as Amgen’s Epogen, between 1995 and 2005. The results showed that 24 percent of the patients got the drugs for a week or less. More alarming was that eight percent of the Medicare beneficiaries received the medicine for more than 14 weeks, while 14 percent were getting the drugs when they weren’t on chemotherapy.

Lead researcher Dr. Jason Wright of Columbia University said the results show that “physicians don’t always realize the correct way to prescribe these drugs,” an alarming statement. disclaimer: This article: ESA’s Being Misused, Study Says was posted on Monday, August 8th, 2011 at 3:29 pm at and is filed under Uncategorized.

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