Pontchartrain Cancer Center's Letter to the Editor of The Times Picayune:
As oncologists, we are extremely concerned about the so-called Medicare experiment on cancer drugs. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) did not seek any input from the oncology community before proposing an ill-conceived and potentially harmful experiment that puts some of our most vulnerable patients at even greater risk. As a result, more than 300 cancer organizations and patient advocacy groups have formed a coalition to petition leaders in Congress to stop the Medicare experiment. We hope Sen. Bill Cassidy is listening.
Cancer treatment is not a "one-size-fits-all" approach. Cancer is an extremely complex disease that requires individualized treatment for each patient, based on that person's unique genetic profile. CMS clearly does not understand this fundamental precept. Because every patient's cancer is unique, we are often required to try multiple drugs before we find the ones that are most effective for that individual.
Quite often, two people with exactly the same type of cancer may not respond in the same way to the same drug. Treatment becomes even more complicated at that point and may require several types of therapies before the most appropriate one is found. Patients who are dependent on Medicare should not have to face mandatory participation in an initiative that may force them to switch to a less appropriate (and potentially less effective) treatment.
Additionally, if implemented, the Medicare experiment could drive more cancer patients to seek treatment in a hospital setting, rather than at a community oncology practice, where close to 70 percent of all cancer patients are treated today. Not only would this create less convenience and longer wait times for patients to receive treatment, it also would increase costs to patients and taxpayers.
We urge all cancer patients and their friends and families to write to their senators and representatives and tell them to stop the Medicare experiment on cancer drugs. (You can go online to CancerExperiment.org to do this.)
The government's proposal is an affront to physicians who want to ensure that every patient receives the most advanced, effective and appropriate treatment available. It would be a huge step backwards for cancer care in America and Louisiana.
David N. Oubre, M.D.
Alison Rome, M.D.
Pontchartrain Cancer Center