The Food and Drug Administration's approval of Avastin, a costly drug to treat breast cancer has raised some serious questions among healthcare officials, doctors and patients.
Avastin has been already used to treat colorectal and lung cancers and was seen to extend the lives of patients by a few months. However, in the case of breast cancer it only checks the cancer from worsening when used with another drug and there is no evidence of helping the patients live longer.
Some serious side effects were also observed in the key study.† Health officials, doctors and patients alike are wondering if it's worth the risk of side effects to control the tumor progression for about 5 Ĺ months.
Barbara Brenner, executive director of the San Francisco-based advocacy group Breast Cancer Action, and also a breast cancer survivor herself, disapproves of FDA's approval of Avastin for breast cancer.
"The standard for approving cancer drugs is pretty clear: It should improve survival rates or quality of life, or it should cost less than the drugs already out there. Avastin fails on all these counts," Brenner said.
Some 11,000 American women with advanced breast cancer are already being prescribed Avastin "off label."† FDA's latest approval could increase its use among 43,000 women approximately who are likely to be deemed suited for treatment with Avastin.
Genetech, the company that manufactures Avastin charges about $92,000 a year for breast cancer patients.† For women with annual family incomes below $100,000, it limits the charges to $55,000 per year.††
Britain's National Health Services is worried about the huge expenditure involved in paying for Avastin for breast cancer patients.† Avastin is a reminder of how difficult it is to determine which treatments are worth paying for and which are not when escalating health costs need to be brought under control.