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Medicare Expands Coverage for Treating Facial Lipodystrophy Syndrome in People Living With HIV

March 23, 2010

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) today announced its decision to cover facial injections for Medicare beneficiaries who experience symptoms of depression due to the stigmatizing appearance of severely hollowed cheeks resulting from the drug treatment for Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Today's decision is effective immediately.

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Facial lipodystrophy (LDS) is a localized loss of fat from the face, causing an excessively thin appearance in the cheeks. In some cases, facial LDS may be a side effect of certain kinds of medications (antiretroviral therapies) that individuals receive as part of an HIV infection treatment regimen.

The facial LDS can leave people living with HIV looking gaunt and seriously ill, which may stigmatize them as part of their HIV-infection status. Individuals who take these medications and experience facial LDS side effects may suffer psychological effects related to a negative self-image. These effects may lead people living with HIV to discontinue their antiretroviral therapies. The new decision allows for treatment of individuals who experience symptoms of depression due to the appearance changes from facial LDS.

The injections included in today's coverage decision are "fillers" that have been approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to be injected under the skin in the face to help fill out its appearance specifically for treatment of facial LDS. Data show that these injections can improve patient self-image, relieve symptoms of depression, and may lead to improved compliance with anti-HIV treatment.

"Today's decision marks an important milestone in Medicare's coverage for HIV-infection therapies," said Barry M. Straube, M.D., CMS Chief Medical Officer and Director of the Agency's Office of Clinical Standards & Quality. "Helping people living with HIV improve their self-image and comply with anti-HIV treatment can lead to better quality of life and, ultimately, improve the quality of care that beneficiaries receive."




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