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Medicare to pay for pricey cancer drug

Standard course of treatment costs nearly $180K

Medicare will soon start paying for a new and pricey cancer medication, Blincyto, which costs about $178,000 for a standard course of treatment.

The latest news from President Barack Obama's administration suggests new willingness by Medicare to cover costly treatments for chronic conditions, reports the New York Times. Officials decided that the drug was a significant improvement over existing treatments after hearing pleas from the drug's manufacturer, Amgen.

The issue at hand is the add-on payments Medicare makes to hospitals for new technology. However, these costs have yet to be incorporated in the total amount hospitals receive for treating patients with certain conditions.

In April, the administration said it had no intention to pay extra for Blincyto because clinical studies did not provide enough evidence that the drug improved care for Medicare beneficiaries with acute lymphoblastic leukemia. Officials also said that the data Amgen presented did not reflect the appropriate demographic of eligible Medicare consumers, notes the article.

The new rule--which is set to be published in the Federal Register Aug. 17--says Medicare will allow for a "new technology add-on payment" to hospitals for a portion of that amount, up to $27,000. The actual payment will depend on the duration of a patient's hospital stay.

The decision comes on the heels of President Obama's plea to Congress to let Medicare officials negotiate prices with drug manufactures. As of late, health insurers have been eager to strike a deal with pharmaceutical companies, especially considering the backlash pver Gilead's Sovaldi last year when the company placed a $100,000 per person price tag on the drug, FierceHealthPayer previously reported.

For more:
- here's the NYT article

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