Drug dispute as metaphor for national health care debate

A fight over whether the world’s best-selling cancer drug should be approved to treat breast cancer represents a metaphor for the national debate over the government’s role in health care, Maggie Fox writes in the National Journal.

Fox writes that the drug Avastin has been shown to be effective in treating some tumors, but evidence suggests that it doesn’t help breast cancer patients live longer. It’s also costly, at up to $88,000 a year. The Food and Drug Administration approved Avastin for breast cancer in 2008 in an accelerated approval process, but last year, advisers to the agency recommended withdrawing approval for the drug to treat breast cancer. The drug’s maker, Genentech, appealed, and the matter is being addressed in hearings this week.

While some doctors have said the drug is ineffective in treating breast cancer, Genentech has argued that women should have the option of choosing Avastin, and some patients have said that the government is taking away their choices, Fox reports. One doctors called the FDA committee a “death panel.”