Aetna Health Insurance Covers Prostate Cancer Drug

More prostate cancer patients will be receiving treatment with a newer cancer drug.  Previously, metastatic prostate cancer patients whose disease had spread to the brain or lungs were not able to receive Provenge.  Aetna health insurance did not pay for this course of treatment for patients whose cancer had spread to the brain, lungs, or liver.  They still don’t cover Provenge when patients’ cancer has spread to the liver, but have removed the exclusion for brain and lungs.  Toni Clarke’s Reuters story, “Aetna expands coverage of Dendreon drug; stock jumps,” says that the company who makes the drug has seen increasing stock prices because of this announcement.  Dendreon Corp.’s shares have increased ten percent.

Provenge was the first vaccine of its kind on the market when it was approved in April of 2010.  It is a personalized, therapeutic vaccine for cancer patients who have not responded to hormone therapy.  Unfortunately, the price tag of $93,000 per treatment coupled with physicians having trouble and confusion with reimbursement, hasn’t made it as popular as Dendreon thought it would be.  The company projected sales to be around $440 million in 2011, but they only saw around half of that.  Despite the controversy that Provenge has illicited, prostate cancer patients are hopeful that it will extend their life and improve the quality.  Initial clinical trials showed an increase of life expectancy of 4.1 months.  That increased survival time from 21.7 to 25.8 months.  With Aetna health insurance increasing the number of patients allowed to use Provenge, other insurers may follow suit to help cancer patients.

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