Breast cancer drug decision ‘marks start of death panels’…
America’s health watchdog is considering revoking its approval of the drug Avastin for use on women with advanced breast cancer, leading to accusations that it will mark the start of ‘death panel’ drug rationing.
By Nick Allen, in Los Angeles and Andrew Hough
16 Aug 2010
A decision to rescind endorsement of the drug would reignite the highly charged debate over US health care reform and how much the state should spend on new and expensive treatments.
Avastin, the world’s best selling cancer drug, is primarily used to treat colon cancer and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for use on women with breast cancer that has spread.
It costs $8,000 (£5,000) a month and is given to about 17,500 women in the US a year. The drug was initially approved after a study found that, by preventing blood flow to tumours, it extended the amount of time until the disease worsened by more than five months. However, two new studies have shown that the drug may not even extend life by an extra month.
The FDA advisory panel has now voted 12-1 to drop the endorsement for breast cancer treatment. The panel unusually cited “effectiveness” grounds for the decision. But it has been claimed that “cost effectiveness” was the real reason ahead of reforms in which the government will extend health insurance to the poorest.