Avastin and Insurance Coverage
This is a thoughtful and probably controversial editorial from the New York Times. I have written a number of times about Avastin, the FDA's withdrawl of approval for treatment of breast cancer, the passionate arguements on both sides. This reflects a different angle of consideration: why is Medicare going to continue to pay for its use at a time when we all know that health care costs are soaring beyond reason?
Here is the beginning and then a link. I would truly invite and welcome your comments on this one:
November 21, 2011
Why Doesn't No Mean No?
By JOE NOCERA In 1998, The New York Times published a front-page article suggesting that two new drugs, angiostatin and endostatin, might finally win the war on cancer.
Though not yet tested in humans, the drugs had "eradicated" cancer in mice, the article said; and while some researchers were cautious, others could barely contain themselves. Dr. Richard Klausner, then the director of the National Cancer Institute called the drugs "the single most exciting thing on the horizon."
In the subsequent 13 years, oncologists have come to the sobering realization these new drugs are not the holy grail after all. Usually used in conjunction with chemotherapy, they extend life and suppress tumor growth — but only by months, not years. Sometimes they do less than that — with serious side effects. As a breast cancer therapy, alas, the angiostatin Avastin falls in the latter category.
This is not to say that Avastin doesn't help cancer patients. For lung cancer patients, Avastin plus chemotherapy extends life by an average of two months longer than chemotherapy alone. For renal cancer patients, Avastin gives the average patient an additional 4.8 months of what's called "progression-free survival" — meaning that the tumors don't grow and the cancer doesn't spread for that amount of time.
But for breast cancer patients, Avastin neither suppresses tumor growth to any significant degree nor extends life. Although a 2007 study showed Avastin adding 5.5 months to progression-free survival, subsequent studies have failed to replicate that result.