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Doctors Paid by Big Pharma To Use Less Effective Cancer Drugs

Posted in H.L. News, Main Blog (All Posts) on July 15th, 2007 8:55 am by HL


Market Forces Cited in Lymphoma Drugs’ Disuse

NY Times
Excerpt
After an hourlong infusion, Linda Stephens, 58, has been cancer-free for seven years. Dan Wheeler, three years. Betsy de Parry, five years. Before treatment, all three had late-stage non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a cancer of the immune system, and a grim prognosis.

All three recovered after a single dose of Bexxar or Zevalin, both federally approved drugs for lymphoma. And all three can count themselves as lucky….

“Both Zevalin and Bexxar are very good products,” said Dr. Oliver W. Press, a professor at the University of Washington and chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Lymphoma Research Foundation. “It is astounding and disappointing” that they are used so little. The reasons that more patients don’t get these drugs reflect the market-driven forces that can distort medical decisions, Dr. Press and other experts on lymphoma treatment say. A result can be high costs but not necessarily the best care….

One reason is that cancer doctors, or oncologists, have financial incentives to use drugs other than Bexxar and Zevalin, which they are not paid to administer. In addition, using either drug usually requires oncologists to coordinate treatment with academic hospitals, whom the doctors may view as competitors.

As a result, many doctors prescribe Bexxar and Zevalin only as a last resort, when they are unlikely to succeed because the cancer has advanced

Not just because their cancers responded so well. But because they got the treatment at all

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