KHN Morning Briefing

Summaries of health policy coverage from major news organizations.

Oncologists Urged To Consider Financial Impact Of Treatments

The American Society of Clinical Oncology is developing a system to rate drugs for advanced cancer based on their likely benefits and side effects, as well as on their price. Meanwhile, better long-term care is urged for the millions who survive the disease, and a report details how drugmakers are tailoring treatments to individuals' genetic makeups even though that may affect only small numbers of people.

Reuters:  Cancer Docs Urged To Consider Value When Treating Patients
Cancer doctors should consider the financial as well as the medical impact of treatment for patients as healthcare costs continue to grow faster than the overall economy, according to experts in Chicago at the annual meeting of the world's largest organization of oncologists. The American Society of Clinical Oncology is developing a system to rate drugs for advanced cancer based on a combination of benefit, side effects and price. The cost of such drugs can easily run into tens of thousands of dollars a year, even though many have been shown to extend the lives of later-stage cancer patients by just a few months (Beasley and Steenhuysen, 5/31).

Los Angeles Times: Cancer Survivors In The U.S. -- 14.5 Million Strong And Growing
The authors of the report – from the ACS and the National Cancer Institute – define a cancer "survivor" as anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and is still alive. That includes patients who are undergoing treatment as well as those who have finished treatment and are considered cancer-free. ... "The growing number of cancer survivors in the U.S. makes it increasingly important to understand the unique medical and psychosocial needs of survivors," ACS epidemiologist Carol DeSantis, the lead author of the report, said in a statement. "Cancer survivors face numerous, important hurdles created by a fractured healthcare system, poor integration of survivorship care, and financial and other barriers to quality care, particularly among the medically underserved" (Kaplan, 6/1).

The Washington Post: Drugmakers Find Breakthroughs In Medicine Tailored To Individuals' Genetic Makeups
When the Food and Drug Administration recently [approved] a promising new lung cancer drug named Zykadia four months ahead of schedule, it heralded the medication as a "breakthrough" therapy. The drug isn't meant for everyone with the devastating disease, which kills an estimated 160,000 Americans each year. Or even for the majority of patients with its most common form, non-small-cell lung cancer. Rather, Zykadia is designed for a sliver of patients — about 5 percent — who have advanced non-small-cell lung cancer and have a specific gene mutation that causes tumors to become resistant to existing treatment (Dennis, 6/1).

Meanwhile, in Kentucky, a pilot program allowing some infirm inmates to go to nursing homes is approved -

The Associated Press: Kentucky Studies Private Nursing Homes For Inmates
The state legislature has approved a pilot program that requires Kentucky to parole some infirm inmates — excluding sex offenders and death row inmates — to private nursing homes where the federal government, through Medicaid, would pay most of the medical bills. For the plan to work, inmates cannot be in prison. The federal government will not pay for inmates' medical expenses. But if the inmates are paroled to a private facility, they become eligible for Medicaid. Inmates who leave the nursing home would be returned to prison for violating parole (6/1).

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