UK's Telegraph reports:
America's health watchdog is considering revoking its approval of the drug Avastin for use on women with advanced breast cancer, leading to accusations that it will mark the start of 'death panel' drug rationing.
A decision to rescind endorsement of the drug would reignite the highly charged debate over US health care reform and how much the state should spend on new and expensive treatments.
Avastin, the world’s best selling cancer drug, is primarily used to treat colon cancer and was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2008 for use on women with breast cancer that has spread.
It costs $8,000 (£5,000) a month and is given to about 17,500 women in the US a year. The drug was initially approved after a study found that, by preventing blood flow to tumours, it extended the amount of time until the disease worsened by more than five months. However, two new studies have shown that the drug may not even extend life by an extra month.
The FDA advisory panel has now voted 12-1 to drop the endorsement for breast cancer treatment. The panel unusually cited "effectiveness" grounds for the decision. But it has been claimed that "cost effectiveness" was the real reason ahead of reforms in which the government will extend health insurance to the poorest.
If the approval of the drug is revoked then US insurers would be likely to stop paying for Avastin.
The Avastin recommendation led to revived allegations that President Barack Obama’s overhaul of the US health care system would mean many would be denied treatments currently available.
During the debate, those opposed to the reforms cited Britain’s National Institute for Clinical Excellence, which decides whether new treatments should be made available on the NHS on the basis of cost effectiveness, as an example of the sort of drug rationing that amounted to a "death panel".