From the Journals

Having prescription drug coverage is associated with improved myeloma outcomes



Medicare beneficiaries with myeloma who have prescription drug coverage have shown both decreased used of classic cytotoxic chemotherapy and better survival, according to new research.

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The findings suggested that prescription drug coverage brings better access to all existing treatment options.

“In this analysis of Medicare beneficiaries with myeloma, the receipt of therapy and survival differed according to prescription drug coverage status,” Adam Olszewski, MD, of the Lifespan Cancer Institute at Rhode Island Hospital in Providence, R.I., and his colleagues noted in the study. “Patients with PDP [prescription drug plan coverage through Medicare Part D] or OCC [other credible prescription drug coverage] more often received active myeloma care, compared to those without coverage,” they wrote in Journal of Clinical Oncology.

The researchers looked at 9,755 patients diagnosed with myeloma during 2006-2011 and examined what was used to treat the myeloma as a first line treatment. The cohort included 1,460 patients with no prescription drug coverage, 3,283 with PDP coverage, 3,607 with OCC, and 1,405 dual eligibility for Medicare and Medicaid coverage.

The study found that, compared with beneficiaries with no coverage, Medicare beneficiaries with PDP coverage “were 14% less likely to be treated with parenteral chemotherapy and 38% less likely to receive classic cytotoxic agents.” Additionally, among the cohort of beneficiaries that were without drug coverage prior to the diagnosis of myeloma, 41% actively obtained coverage, but even then, their survival was “significantly worse, compared with the beneficiaries who had coverage at diagnosis.”

Beneficiaries classified as having other credible coverage were 3% more likely to receive active myeloma care than were those without coverage, but the use of parenteral regimens did not differ between those groups.

Researchers noted that overall survival was 10% higher at 1 year and 6% higher at 3 years for beneficiaries with PDP coverage or OCC than it was for those without coverage, but they added that the analysis required cautious interpretation “as it is confounded by multiple baseline factors and mediated by the quality of cancer treatment. ... We could not discern whether worse survival in the group without coverage was a result of not receiving therapy at all, an inability to access IMiDs [immunomodulatory drugs], or poor control of other medical issues.”

However, a comparison with the control group “strongly suggest[s] that patients with myeloma without prescription drug coverage may not have received the most effective first-line therapy,” Dr. Olszewski and his colleagues added. “Survival for PDP and OCC groups remained identical, which supports the notion that having any prescription drug coverage contributed to optimal treatment and outcomes.”

The study was limited by the fact that unobserved clinical differences between beneficiaries with or without prescription drug coverage could have accounted for differences in mortality and that the comparison of treatments was restricted to parenteral regimens because IMiDs were observed to have been administered only for PDP enrollees.

Dr. Olszewski and study coauthor Amy Davidoff, PhD, of Yale University, New Haven, Conn., disclosed acting in consulting or advisory roles and receiving research funding from several pharmaceutical companies that develop cancer treatments.

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SOURCE: Olszewski A et al. J Clin Oncol. 2018 Aug 16. doi: 10.1200/JCO.2018.77.8894.

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