People who have undergone chemotherapy can be at an increased risk of developing infections due to their compromised immune system. Some medications, such as Neulasta, boost white blood cell growth in an effort to reduce these risks.
Understanding How Neulasta Works
Many cancers are treated with chemotherapy, but these potent medications stop the growth of cancer cells and healthy cells alike. When a body’s white blood cell count is low, the immune system is not equipped to fight off infections. Chemotherapy is usually administered in cycles over a specific period of time. White blood cell counts are at their lowest about a week after each dose of chemotherapy.
Pegfilgratstim, under the brand name Neulasta, is a synthetic protein that promotes white blood cell growth. Chemotherapy patients who receive an injection of this medication the day after their chemotherapy dose can reduce their risk of contracting infections caused by a low white blood cell count. The recommended dosage is one shot after every cycle of chemotherapy. This is typically administered the day after that cycle’s dose of chemotherapy, but Neulasta’s may still provide effective results if given within 14 days after a chemotherapy cycle.
Side Effects and Risks Associated with Neulasta
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy are vulnerable to a variety of medical complications, so the risk of side effects when taking Neulasta may be unpredictable. The most commonly reported side effects include pain in the arms, legs or bones and skin reactions at the site of injection.
Your doctor or pharmacist can help you understand the risk of experiencing more severe or rare side effects from Neulasta, which can be different for each person. Any sudden onset of difficulty breathing, excessive pain, gastrointestinal discomfort or skin reactions should be reported to health care professionals immediately.
Medicare Coverage for Neulasta
The Neulasta injection can be administered by a health care professional in an outpatient setting or it can be prescribed with a self-injector mechanism for use at home. What your doctor decides is best for you in this situation will determine what part of your Medicare benefits cover costs associated with Neulasta.
Medicare Part B helps cover outpatient care and services, including some medications that are given during these appointments in a doctor’s office or outpatient setting. Recipients are still responsible for any cost-sharing obligations under their Part B coverage terms, which may include deductibles, copayments or coinsurance requirements.
Recipients may also choose to have their Part A and Part B Medicare benefits along with enhanced coverage options through a Medicare Advantage plan. A Medicare Advantage plan can lower certain out-of-pocket expenses or provide prescription drug coverage through Part D prescription drug coverage. Original Medicare recipients can also choose to purchase a stand-alone Part D prescription plan to help them pay for the cost of medications like the self-injecting form of Neulasta.
A low-income subsidy can also assist Medicare recipients if they qualify for Part D’s Extra Help program. If eligible, other Medicaid programs can also pay for deductibles and lower copayments and coinsurance amounts for qualifying recipients. Eligibility limits are determined by each state, so applicants should consult with their local agency for the most up-to-date information on application requirements.