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News & Notes

July 2000

Medicare to Cover Costs of Clinical Trials

"I hereby direct the Department of Health and Human Services to revise Medicare program guidance to explicitly authorize payment for Medicare-covered services for clinical trials." So reads an "executive memorandum" issued by President Clinton directing Medicare to start covering most of the costs of clinical trials of new drugs and medical treatments for elderly and disabled people. The directive continues, "Medicare will immediately begin to reimburse for the routine patient care costs, and costs due to medical complications associated with participation in a clinical trial." The bulk of the cost of most clinical trials can be attributed to such routine care.

Until now, the medical costs of clinical research have been borne by insurance companies, drug companies, and often the patients themselves, with a great deal of uncertainty about who pays and how much. Private insurers often deny coverage on the grounds that the treatments are "experimental" or "investigational." Not surprisingly, the uncertainty and and threat of severe monetary burden has deterred many people from participating in clinical trials.

Support for Medicare reimbursement of these costs has been growing in recent months. The Institute of Medicine, part of the National Academy of Sciences, said in a report issued last December, "Medicare should pay for routine care of beneficiaries enrolled in clinical trials in the same way it pays for this care outside of clinical trials." Several bills have been introduced in Congress that would authorize Medicare to help pay clinical trials costs for cancer patients. The new policy, however, is not limited to cancer, but applies to treatments for all diseases and disabilities.

The new policy is seen as significant not only to the 39 million Americans covered by Medicare, but also to those with private insurance, because many insurance companies follow the example of Medicare in determining what they will cover.

Data analysis and other expenses of clinical trials beyond the costs of routine care will continue to be paid by drug companies and other sponsors of the research.

London HIV/AIDS Agency Closes

London's fifteen-year-old Body Positive--no relation to New York's Body Positive, Inc., or this magazine--has been forced to close its doors in the face of dwindling financial support.

"This was a tough and very sad decision to make," according to Chair of Trustees Martin Skipworth. "Although our closest funders had agreed to continue their support for BP, it was simply not at the level we need to continue operating. It's a crushing blow to the staff and volunteers--but especially hard for service users."

BP, which served as a model for other British HIV/AIDS organizations, provided support, treatment information and therapies, counseling, and training. The agency is negotiating with the Terrence Higgins Trust and the London Lighthouse for the continuation of such services as its Skills for Success Program, Gay Men's Group, and Treatment Library.

Tony Leonard, writing for the Network, reports that the closure comes at a time when demand for BP's services is on the rise. He cites the diversion of government HIV/AIDS money away from services and into combination therapies, and a declining sense of urgency that mirrors the declining death rate. "HIV fundraising is becoming more and more difficult, and government grants are being reduced year on year," says Leigh Gallagher, BP's head of marketing. "The future is looking very sketchy for everyone."

Mandela to Speak

The legendary Nelson Mandela, former president of South Africa and a freedom fighter who spent 27 years in prison under that country's apartheid system, will both deliver the keynote address and participate in the closing ceremonies at the 13th International AIDS Conference. The Conference, with the theme "Break the Silence!," takes place in Durban, South Africa, from July 9 through July 14. Current president Thabo Mbeki, whose dealings with AIDS "dissidents" have ignited controversy, will also address the conference.

Back to the July 2000 Issue of Body Positive Magazine.

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This article was provided by Body Positive. It is a part of the publication Body Positive.