BioWorld – the main newspaper of the biotechnology industry, read by biotechnology professionals worldwide – recently featured Georgia Cancer Specialists’s (GCS) poster presentation on how using erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) prevents the usage of blood transfusions in chemotherapy-induced anemia patients at the 2008 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting.
In July 2007, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a policy putting restrictions on payments for anemia drugs, which are used to help chemotherapy-induced anemia patients, the majority of which are seniors. This policy largely eliminated the use of ESAs, a drug that helps to stimulate the production of red blood cells. Anemia can cause a deficiency in red blood cell production and excessive blood loss. When options such as ESAs are taken away from patients, one of the only options left is blood transfusion.
Along with blood transfusions come many risks, as well as inconveniences. Blood is a difficult commodity to obtain in any amount, and to use what is available on anemic patients when there is an alternative can seem nonsensical.
GCS recently conducted a study of 285 anemic patients’ electronic medical records. The study showed that blood transfusions doubled in the second half of 2007 for cancer patients with chemotherapy-induced anemia who were given ESAs in the first half of the year, but not in the second half due to the CMS policy.
“We want what is best for our patients, and participating in this study will hopefully help not only our patients, but those around the world,” said Dr. Mansoor Saleh, Director of Clinical Research at GCS.