BONE-MARROW TRANSPLANTS: Studies Likely to Redefine Debate
The debate over use of bone-marrow transplants to treat late- stage breast cancer, a practice that has become more common in recent years in part because of patient and political pressures, will likely be "ignite[d] again" in May when the results of the first large-scale, controlled studies of the treatment are released. The Wall Street Journal reports that two studies -- "considered the most definitive ever" -- are scheduled to be released at the meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology. While the findings are "closely guarded ... some insurers are already saying that if the big studies fail to show the treatment is effective, they may stop paying for it." Lee Newcomer, chief medical officer of United HealthGroup said, "If the trials don't show a benefit, we'll stop covering it." And "even if results are only ambiguous," the Journal reports, "[m]any doctors are likely to take a critical second look" at the use of the treatment, which more than 6,000 patients receive annually at a "cost that probably exceeds $500 million" (Jeffrey/Winslow, 3/8).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.