Effect of reimbursement changes on erythropoiesis-stimulating agent utilization and transfusions


  • Data from shorter time periods than those described in this manuscript were presented at the 2008 HOPA/ISOPP conference, June 18–21, 2008, Anaheim, CA; and in abstract form at the 2008 Annual American Society of Clinical Oncology Meeting: JClinOncol 2008,26(Suppl):Abstract 20589.

  • Conflict of interest: Amgen funded the work described in this manuscript.


Cancer patients frequently develop chemotherapy-induced anemia, which can be treated with erythropoiesis-stimulating agents. These agents have shifted the standard of chemotherapy-induced anemia treatment away from the previous mainstay of red blood cell transfusions. In July 2007, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services issued a National Coverage Decision restricting reimbursement for erythropoiesis-stimulating agents to those chemotherapy patients who have hemoglobin levels <10 g/dL at initiation of therapy. This decision was hypothesized to place a greater reliance on transfusions for chemotherapy-induced anemia treatment. This observational study examined transfusions and erythropoiesis-stimulating agent utilization rates within defined episodes of chemotherapy care using electronic medical records from seven practices consisting of 39 sites of care across seven states. We compared the frequency of myelosuppressive chemotherapy treatment, erythropoiesis-stimulating agent administrations, and red blood cell transfusions before and after the National Coverage Decision in oncology patients with chemotherapy-induced anemia. Although exposure to myelosuppressive chemotherapy was not different, erythropoiesis-stimulating agent administrations significantly decreased and blood transfusions significantly increased after implementation of the National Coverage Decision. The 31% increase in transfusions for patients aged 65 years and older was significant (P = 0.007) and higher than the 8% increase for patients younger than 65 years (P = 0.358). Changes in practice patterns for chemotherapy-induced anemia treatment that followed the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services reimbursement decision for erythropoiesis-stimulating agents seem to be impacting practice patterns. Further research is necessary to determine whether these changes represent a widespread and durable shift in patient treatment. Am. J. Hematol., 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.