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Avastin supporters point to survival trial

Grasping at straws

Not even three weeks ago, I told you about the FDA’s decision to withdraw the breast cancer indication for Avastin.

Are you shocked to learn that people are already scrambling to its defense?

I certainly wasn’t–especially considering the $80,000 price tag that comes with a year of treatment. All in all, its breast cancer application added up to about a billion a year in revenue.

So, no, I’m not surprised that Avastin has a few knights in shining armor trying desperately to defend its honor.

What little honor there is…

The FDA’s typical rush job on approving drugs without having complete data resulted in Avastin being approved for breast cancer with only one trial under its belt. In their infinite wisdom, they decided to figure out if it was safe and effective AFTER approving it. Brilliant.

So what did they find five trials later? Only that its effect is weak, and its risks are potentially life-threatening. Among them: hemorrhaging, heart failure, and development of dangerous perforations in the stomach and intestines.

You’d think that would be enough to close the door on Avastin. But its supporters are beside themselves over a trial that’s, in my opinion, a total embarrassment.

Those Avastin cheerleaders are over the moon about a new study (funded by, you guessed it, the very maker of the drug!) that suggests that Avastin can boost the survival of women with breast cancer.

There are a few problems here.

First, there’s that word: “Suggests.”

Second: They’re talking about just one specific type of aggressive breast cancer.

Third: The effect is only seen when two other medications are taken in conjunction.

Oh, and here’s the kicker: It buys women at best not even 3 months.

An investigator and a committee reviewing the results of the trial actually disagreed over whether or not Avastin actually did much of anything as far as cancer progression or lengthening life. But the cheerleaders took the “good” news that Avastin bought “nearly three months” and ran with it, calling it “exciting.”

I’m not sure “exciting” is the right word for buying not even three months at a cost of possible internal bleeding or heart failure. Is risking your life worth the possibility of such a small extension?

Granted, I have never had to make this difficult decision, and I’m thankful for that. But I think it’s a pretty dirty game to ask women to make this choice just to keep a revenue stream open.

Sorry, but you’re going to have to do better than a risk-laden trio of drugs that grants a few weeks of time if you want us to buy what you’re selling.

P.S. Concerned your grandchild could be suffering from colic? Keep reading.

Sources:
“Avastin Boosted Survival for Type of Aggressive Breast Cancer: Study,” Yahoo! News (news.yahoo.com)