Two months after approval, Gilead's 'breakthrough' cancer drug given to just a handful of patients

Two months following the FDA's approval of Gilead Science's breakthrough lymphoma treatment, only five patients have received the expensive therapy, according to Bloomberg.

While only a handful of patients received the $373,000 treatment, called Yescarta, waiting lists have grown to at least 200 people. 

Physicians at the 15 cancer hospitals authorized to administer the treatment blame the growing waitlist on holdups with insurance coverage.

"The biggest issue has been insurance, particularly with Medicare and Medicaid," Michael Bishop, MD, director of the cellular therapy program at the University of Chicago Medicine, one of the hospitals authorized to administer Yescarta, told Bloomberg. "There's no billing codes for this. It's been difficult, to be very blunt."

The payment delays are forcing hospitals to make the decision of putting millions of dollars at risk or asking dying patients to keep waiting.

Yescarta belongs to a class of medications called CAR-T cell therapies, which genetically alter patients' immune cells to attack cancer.

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