Warner Todd Huston
FDA: Dec. 17, countdown to a death panel for breast cancer drug Avastin
By Warner Todd Huston
December 15, 2010

In a few days the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is expected to release its final decision on whether or not 17,000 women across the country will have the same access to the breast cancer drug Avastin that they now have. Several congressmen, thousands of doctors and patients, and many small government activists stand against this perceived example of Obamacare-like rationing.

As I reported last week, with this Avastin situation five Congressmen have become alerted to the threat that government is instituting cost-based rationing of healthcare and have become alarmed at the effects that will have on the sick. It seems that this FDA decision will set the table for the rationing war to come under Obamacare unless that legislation is repealed or inhibited.

Avastin is, admittedly, an expensive drug. But are we ready for government to decide if your lifesaving medicines are "too expensive" to be allowed for use? Is that the cost-based road down which we wish to travel? And how far down that road do we go? How much cost-cutting do we want government to indulge where it concerns our health? And should government even have that role in the first place?

These are questions that the Avastin decision evokes.

Aside from the letter mentioned above written by the five congressmen, Representative Jack Kingtson also sent a letter to Chairman Rosa DeLauro of the House Appropriations Committee, Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Dev., FDA, and Related Agencies. Rep. Kingston asked the chair to schedule an oversight hearing on Avastin.

    Because of the implications of removing the breast cancer indication from the Avastin label on women currently undergoing treatment, I believe it is imperative that we hold a hearing on Avastin during the upcoming lame duck session.

Mr. Kingston is worried that the FDA is moving hastily and so are many doctors and patients. Sadly, Rep. DeLauro has ignored Mr. Kingston's request. She is a great supporter of rationing and Obamacare after all.

The son of one such patient recently wrote an op ed in The Hill pleading with the FDA not to end support for the drug with which his mother is finding success. Josh Turnage ended his piece saying, "The FDA can still change course and preserve the right of breast cancer patients to make an informed choice. If someone you loved were diagnosed with breast cancer, wouldn't you want the right to choose this drug?"

Now, many of the critics of the drug's supporters say that it is fearmongering to worry about the FDA delisting the drug for breast cancer. The say that the limitation to just breast cancer will not impact the availability of the drug all that much. But this ignores the great impact that government action has on a thing.

Already several insurance companies are moving away from supporting the drug with just the threat of government action.

  • Regence Blue Shield, the large regional plan in the Pacific Northwest recently published an Avastin policy listing the breast cancer treatment as "medically unnecessary."

  • Utah Public Employee Health Plan a small regional payer in Utah has begun to deny all Avastin claims but has not yet bothered to publish a written policy.

  • Health Care Service Corporation the parent company of Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Illinois, New Mexico and Oklahoma recently published an Avastin policy that restricts use of Avastin.

Because of the government's actions — even as limited as those actions are thus far — thousands of patients are finding the availability of their drug being limited.

This is a perfect example of what will happen to the medical field if these sort of government actions increase under Obamacre. Please do call your representatives and senators on this issue before the Dec. 17 deadline and let them know how you feel.

(Here is a Roche Company update sent to investors on where they stand on the matter)

© Warner Todd Huston


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Warner Todd Huston

Warner Todd Huston's thoughtful commentary, sometimes irreverent often historically based, is featured on many websites... (more)

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