Heavy charges weigh on U.S. Oncology ...

Heavy charges weigh on U.S. Oncology first-quarter results

There are 2 comments on the Bizjournals story from May 3, 2007, titled Heavy charges weigh on U.S. Oncology first-quarter results. In it, Bizjournals reports that:

Houston Business Journal - 2:36 PM CDT Thursday, May 3, 2007 Despite a 4 percent increase in revenue, significant costs caused U.S. Oncology Holdings Inc. via Bizjournals

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Since: Dec 05

Vero Beach, FL

#1 May 4, 2007
The Senate Finance Committee Chairman found that the value of the approximately $300 million-a-year Medicare Demonstration Project to report on a patient's level of nausea, vomiting, pain and fatigue was for nothing.

CMS paid chemotherapy providers $130 per report, per infusional-chemotherapy recipient, on a patient's level of nausea, vomiting, pain and fatigue. However, HHS' inspector general's office found these providers were being paid an extra $130 to simply forward the data that was already collected.

A continuance of the Medicare Demonstration Project would have exacerbated existing economic and clinical problems instead of resolving them by increasing the temptations for physicians to overuse injectable drugs and promise to aggravate the ecnomic problems Congress attempted to fix with the new Medicare law.

A New York Times article stated that anemia drugs, given by injection, have been heavily advertised, and there is evidence that they have been overused, in part because oncologists can make money by using more of the drug. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the Atlanta-based American Cancer Society, told United Press International, "Probably more than a billion dollars is spent on erythropoietin each year, which makes it one of the most expensive cancer drugs."

According to Dr. John Glaspy, director of UCLA's Outpatient Oncology Clinic, one complicating factor, experts say, is that oncologists make significant revenue buying cancer drugs from manufacturers and charging patients a higher price for receiving the drugs in their offices. That profit motive could influence some doctors' decisions. A six-month course of treatment can cost more than $10,000 per patient.

However, patients with anemia, which can cause sluggishness in its early stages and can be fatal in advanced phases, can get blood transfusions, typically every few weeks, instead of using EPO.

In panel discussion that highlighted the 12th annual conference of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network, Lee Newcomer, former chief medical officer and currently an executive with Minneapolis-based United Health Group, pointed out that in reviewing records of patients who were prescribed the drug erythropoietin, said that 44% of those patients had blood work-ups that would indicate they were not anemic.

Since: Dec 05

Vero Beach, FL

#2 May 11, 2007
U.S. Oncology takes a hit! Reports first-quarter net loss (oops!)

U.S. Oncology said a number of factors impacted the results, including reduced pre-tax income due to lower use of certain supportive care drugs used to treat cancer-induced anemia: and the discontinuation of the Medicare Demonstration Project.


U.S. Oncology Under the Gun

U.S. Oncology reports two seeming unrelated bits in their latest SEC Form 10-K. One note say cancer patients are suddenly using a lot less anemia drugs, and as a result U.S. Oncology will bank $8-10 million a year less than expected. The second note says that in 2005 the company was subpoenaed by the U.S. Department of Justice about contracts and relationships with pharmaceutical companies.



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