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January 1 Looms Large for Lymphoma Patients

Action necessary before year end to prevent loss of access to crucial

lymphoma drugs

WHITE PLAINS, Nov. 27 /PRNewswire/ -- The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society is urging the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reverse detrimental changes to reimbursement rates for two lymphoma drugs. If the HHS does not act, the changes would severely limit the availability of the two therapies, which for thousands of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) patients represent their best or only resort for effective treatment.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), an HHS division, has set reimbursement levels for these drugs, effective Jan. 1, which will create unreasonable obstacles to accessing these lifesaving therapies.

The drugs in jeopardy are two radioimmunotherapies -- Bexxar(R) and Zevalin(R) -- which are both critically important treatment options for patients with NHL. The drugs work by delivering a radioactive isotope to the cancer cells. CMS has established reimbursement levels for the 2008 hospital outpatient prospective payment system, which will result in less than 50 percent coverage for Bexxar and Zevalin. Hospitals will not be able to cover the other half of these costly drugs, thereby effectively eliminating access to these treatments.

The Society urges the following steps be taken immediately:

-- CMS should classify the radioimmunotherapy regimen a specified covered

patient drug. The Society believes that the CMS improperly considers

the initial doses of radioimmunotherapies to be diagnostic rather than

therapeutic doses. This is not consistent with U.S. Food and Drug

Administration labeling or with current practice.

-- CMS should cover the cost of compounding radioimmunotherapies.

Institutions should be paid fairly for the costs associated with

compounding these products.

-- The agency should consider setting payment for radioimmunotherapies on

the basis of 106 percent of average sales price or a composite

ambulatory payment classification that would reflect the entire costs

of the radioimmunotherapy regimen.

About The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society

The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, headquartered in White Plains, NY, with 68 chapters in the United States and Canada, is the world's largest voluntary health organization dedicated to funding blood cancer research and providing education and patient services. The Society's mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin's disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. Since its founding in 1949, the Society has invested more than $550 million in research specifically targeting leukemia, lymphoma and myeloma. Last year alone, the Society made 5.1 million contacts with patients, caregivers and healthcare professionals.

For more information about blood cancer, visit or call the Society's Information Resource Center (IRC), a call center staffed by master's level social workers, nurses and health educators who provide information, support and resources to patients and their families and caregivers. IRC information specialists are available at (800) 955-4572, Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET.

Contact: Andrea Greif


SOURCE The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society
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