March 15, 2005 - The government is funding a supplement medication, Levo-carnitine (L-carnitine), used for dialysis patients, even though there is no adequate scientific proof that the drug is effective, according to an article published in Seminars in Dialysis.
Theodore I. Steinman, MD, Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, writes in his editorial that although studies have been conducted on the drug, the data extracted is weak and none thoroughly prove actual benefits from L-carnitine.
"L-carnitine is offered as a supplement to patients on chronic hemodialysis to help correct the anemia associated with chronic kidney disease, to help prevent a drop in blood pressure during the hemodialysis treatment, and to improve heart function," states Dr. Steinman. "The studies done on this supplement so far do not justify the use of this compound. More and better studies are needed before this agent is used on a wide scale basis."
In January of 2003, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) initiated the national coverage determination for use of L-carnitine in qualified patients, however the criteria established for use of the drug is minimal. Even with this minimal criteria, CMS rejected 97% of the claims submitted in the first six months following national coverage of L-carnitine.
Based on recommended doses of L-carnitine, the cost per treatment for an average person would be $52. At doses three times a week, the government would be funding approximately $8086 per year, per person. This supplement, which has proven little efficacy as a supplement is more expensive than the standard treatments used for a patient on chronic hemodialysis.
"I consider it a waste of government money," adds Dr. Steinman. "I do not believe we should continue to waste our limited resources on a treatment of unproven benefit."
Source: Eurekalert & othersLast reviewed: By John M. Grohol, Psy.D. on 21 Feb 2009
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