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.”

Arielle Levin Becker covered health care for The Connecticut Mirror. She previously worked for The Hartford Courant, most recently as its health reporter, and has also covered small towns, courts and education in Connecticut and New Jersey. She was a finalist in 2009 for the prestigious Livingston Award for Young Journalists, a recipient of a Knight Science Journalism Fellowship and the third-place winner in 2013 for an in-depth piece on caregivers from the National Association of Health Journalists. She is a 2004 graduate of Yale University.

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