August 20, 2009 / 10:12 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-US Medicare panel to review Amgen, J&J anemia drugs

* Medicare panel to review use in chronic kidney disease

* Meeting set for March 2010 (Adds details on drugs)

WASHINGTON, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The U.S. Medicare agency will ask an advisory panel for input on the use of Amgen (AMGN.O) and Johnson & Johnson (JNJ.N) anemia drugs in patients with chronic kidney disease, officials said on Thursday.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services seeks advice from its Medicare Evidence Development and Coverage Advisory Committee to help set future coverage policies.

The committee will review use of erythropoiesis-stimulating agents (ESAs) in chronic kidney disease at a March 24, 2010 meeting, according to a notice posted on the agency website.

“CMS has called this meeting of the panel to review the available evidence on the use of erythropoiesis stimulating agents (ESAs) for anemia in patients with” chronic kidney disease, the notice said.

Medicare is the federal health insurance program for the elderly and disabled.

Johnson & Johnson sells an ESA called Procrit for kidney disease and cancer patients. Amgen sells two ESAs, Aranesp and Epogen.

The drugs came under scrutiny in recent years after studies emerged showing high doses could lead to heart complications or death. Strong warnings were added and sales slumped but the drugs remain widely used.

Amgen reported second-quarter Aranesp sales of $693 million in the second quarter, while Procrit sales for the same period were $330 million.

Separately, Medicare is developing rules on “bundling” of payments for dialysis services, which industry analysts expect will trim sales of the drugs for dialysis patients. Those rules take effect in January 2011.

Centocor Ortho Biotech, the J&J unit that sells Procrit, said it had not been formally notified of the advisory panel meeting but would cooperate with any requests for information.

“We believe that the current Procrit label supports safe and effective use of the product,” the company said in a written statement.

An Amgen spokeswoman had no immediate comment. (Reporting by Lisa Richwine, Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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