December 10 2010

Decision on Avastin Has Real Consequences

Hadley Heath

Sally Pipes writes for Investors' Business Daily:

For women already enduring the physical and financial burdens of advanced breast cancer, the last thing they need is a choice between ruinous expense or forgoing treatment.

But this, Pipes says, is what they will get if the FDA decides on December 17 that Avastin is no longer approved for breast cancer patients.  Research has shown that patients with Avastin live a median of two to three months longer than patients without it.  What would you give for an extra two or three months of life?

Well, when it comes to expensive treatments, the question becomes really "what could you give" for those extra months.  Right now Medicare and private insurers cover most of the cost of this drug - which amounts to a startling $8,000 per month - but if the FDA decides that Avastin is "not worth it," then breast cancer patients will be put in a hard position. 

Pipes continues:

For those who personally stand to be affected by the FDA's decision later this month, the most important point in this debate - that Avastin prolongs and improves patients' lives - is too often overlooked. Forty thousand American women die each year from breast cancer. Avastin is a treatment that might not reduce that number, but it does improve the quality of life for many during their last months.

Dr. Berwick promised that the law won't let Medicare ration care to control costs. This month comes the first test of whether the FDA is on board with that promise or is going to allow its approval process to become an instrument for stealth rationing of care.

The debate about Avastin is real to American women and their families.  Some of the most influential women in my life have fought breast cancer, and I expect that I will know more women in the future who are diagnosed.  It breaks my heart to think that a helpful drug would be denied to the women in my life because of a decision made by bureaucrats.

It's also heartbreaking that ObamaCare - a system with the purported goals of improving the health care Americans receive - creates even more opportunities for the government to interfere with the treatments that are available to patients.  This is true for breast cancer and any other ailments. 

That's not progress, and that won't lead to the kind of innovations in medicine that will lead to a cure. 

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