WASHINGTON — Medicare says it will cover breakthrough gene therapy for some kinds of blood cancers, increasing access to a potentially life-saving but costly treatment that uses a patient’s own cells to destroy malignancies.
In a decision issued Wednesday, officials said Medicare will cover CAR-T cell therapies for certain types of lymphoma and leukemia. The cost of the treatments can run to hundreds of thousands of dollars per patient.
CAR-T uses gene therapy techniques to turbocharge the patient’s own immune system cells, reprogramming them to harbour a “receptor” that zeroes in on cancer. The revved-up immune cells are returned to the patient to fight the cancer.
Medicare Administrator Seema Verma said the decision will provide consistent and predictable access nationwide for patients who may have no other options.
Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar, The Associated Press