By Elise Viebeck - 09/29/14 04:13 PM EDT
The cost of treating cancer has "skyrocketed" despite a 2003 law that sought to control Medicare drug costs, including the cost of chemotherapy, according to a new study.
Research published Monday in the Journal of Clinical Oncology found that oncologists did not stop prescribing expensive cancer drugs even after Medicare cut the drugs' reimbursements in 2005.
"Economists expected a sharp decline in use of the most expensive drugs targeted by the  law, because reimbursement to oncologists for these drugs was reduced, but that did not happen," said Mark C. Hornbrook of Kaiser Permanente Northwest, the study’s lead author.
Cutting drug reimbursements is one way federal health officials seek to influence doctors' prescribing habits.
Profit on Medicare reimbursements for chemotherapy drugs is one way cancer clinics generate profit, making the payments ripe for scrutiny by Medicare.
The study looked at 5,831 chemotherapy regimens for 3,613 patients and found the the law lowered prescriptions for affected cancer drugs "slightly" in fee-for-service cancer clinics.
The 2003 law — the Medicare Prescription Drug, Improvement and Modernization Act — is best known for creating Medicare Part D.