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Oncology Care Model Reduces Cost of Supportive Care Meds

The Oncology Care Model (OCM), launched by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) with the goal of reducing spending for Medicare beneficiaries, was “associated with meaningful changes in the use of supportive care medications during chemotherapy treatment episodes,” according to new findings.

The OCM led to a statistically significant reduction in the use of denosumab — a pricier bone-modifying drug — by patients with bone metastases without changing the overall use of bone-modifying medications. The OCM also prompted more rapid adoption of a less expensive white blood cell growth factor agent — the biosimilar filgrastim — and more selective use of costly antiemetics as primary prophylaxis for chemotherapy-induced nausea.

Overall, the “OCM led to the reduced use of some high-cost supportive care medications, suggesting more value-conscious care,” study author Gabriel A. Brooks, MD, MPH, of the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, Geisel School of Medicine, Lebanon, New Hampshire, and colleagues write.

The study was published online February 25 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Since the OCM was launched in 2016, several studies have evaluated whether the alternative payment model reached its goal of reducing spending while improving or maintaining the quality of cancer care.

The results have been decidedly mixed.

As previously reported by Medscape Medical News, one study found that after 4 years, the OCM led to a $155 million net loss to Medicare. During that time, physician participation in the program also declined, with the number of practices dropping almost 30% between 2016 and 2020.

Other studies, however, have highlighted more positive results.

One large community practice reported saving Medicare $3 million over the course of 1 year. Another analysis found that among community practices that adopted the OCM, in the first year of the program, there was less physician-administered drug use by patients with prostate cancer, lower drug costs by patients with lung and prostate cancer, fewer visits by patients with breast or colon cancer, and lower office-based costs in all cancers analyzed. However, these savings were largely offset by the costs of these programs.

In the current study, Brooks and colleagues compared the use of supportive care medications — bone-modifying drugs as well as prophylactic white blood cell (WBC) growth factors and antiemetics — in practices that adopted the OCM and those that didn’t.

More specifically, the authors zeroed in on the bone-modifying agent denosumab for patients with breast, lung, or prostate cancer and the WBC growth factor biosimilar filgrastim for those receiving chemotherapy for breast, lung, or colorectal cancer. Prophylactic use of higher-cost neurokinin-1 (NK1) antagonists and long-acting serotonin antagonists for patients receiving chemotherapy for any type of cancer was also evaluated.

The authors evaluated chemotherapy episodes assigned to OCM (n = 201) and comparison practices (n = 534) using Medicare claims from 2013–2019.

There was a total of 255,638 treatment episodes for bone metastases. The authors found that the OCM led to relative reductions in the use of denosumab but not in the overall use of bone-modifying medications, which included the less costly options zoledronic acid and pamidronate. The use of denosumab was similar for OCM and comparison practices during the baseline period, but during the intervention period, there were statistically significant relative reductions in the use of denosumab at OCM practices for breast (-5.0%), prostate (-4.0%), and lung cancer (-4.1%).

For WBC growth factors, 164,310 episodes were included in analyses. The OCM did not affect the use of prophylactic WBC growth factors during breast cancer chemotherapy for those at high risk of febrile neutropenia but did lead to a relative decrease during intermediate-risk chemotherapy (-7.6%). The authors observed no OCM impact on the use of prophylactic WBC growth factors among intermediate-risk lung or colorectal cancer patients. But, during the intervention period, OCM practices did demonstrate an increased use of originator or biosimilar filgrastim (57.3%) compared to other practices (47.6%), and the quarterly rate of increase in the use of the biosimilar grew 2.6 percentage points faster in OCM practices.

The authors report that there were 414,792 treatment episodes involving the use of prophylactic antiemetics. Overall, among patients receiving chemotherapy with high or moderate emetic risk, the OCM led to reductions in the prophylactic use of NK1 antagonists and long-acting serotonin antagonists. The authors report a 6.0 percentage point reduction in the use of NK1 antagonists during high-emetic-risk chemotherapy.

“We found that OCM was associated with meaningful changes in the use of supportive care medications during chemotherapy treatment episodes consistent with value-based care redesign,” the authors conclude. “These impacts on supportive care medication use align with previously reported spending reductions attributable to OCM and suggest that alternative payment models have potential to drive value-based changes in supportive care during cancer treatment.”

The study was supported by CMS. Several of the co-authors have reported relationships with industry, as noted in the article.

J Clin Oncol. Published online February 25, 2022. Abstract

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