Rationing Cancer Cures; Is the FDA Making Decisions Based on Cost, Not Effectiveness?

Article excerpt


Br east-cancer patients are charging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with moving toward Obamacare-style

rationing of useful treatments. Congressional overseers should monitor how the FDA handles an appeal of its ruling to disapprove the drug Avastin in the fight against breast cancer. The sick need every weapon in the struggle against this killer disease.

Avastin is acknowledged as a helpful treatment against colorectal cancer and also is approved for use against some lung, kidney and other cancers. It works by stopping the formation of the blood vessels that feed tumors. With early trials showing Avastin shrank tumors in nearly 50 percent of breast-cancer patients while adding years to the lives of at least some, the FDA originally gave conditional approval for its widespread use against breast cancer. Yet, after further tests showed fewer benefits and more potential side effects, the FDA on Dec. 16 voted to withdraw that approval. Doctors still could legally prescribe Avastin for breast cancer, but Medicare and most insurance companies wouldn't pay for it.

Leading breast-cancer organizations are unhappy with the decision, and nearly 10,000 people have signed a petition against FDA disapproval that calls it a death sentence for certain patients. After the ruling, Elizabeth Thompson, president of Susan B. Komen for the Cure, said, We want to be sure .. that their insurers will continue to pay for [Avastin]

for women who are finding the drug helpful She said she hopes the manufacturer, Genentech/Roche, will continu[e] making the drug available .. and conside[r] an expanded access program

Some government critics, such as Sally C. Pipes of the Pacific Research Institute, a conservative think tank, accuse the FDA of illegally taking cost, rather than effectiveness, into account. …