The AVASTIN Spin Machine: Costs $100,000, little proof of survival benefit, But……..

It’s remarkable how drug companies spin the limited proven benefits of their new drugs.   This in the LA Times:

Avastin can stabilize tumors in ovarian cancer, studies find

Two independent groups working with advanced-stage cases say the drug extended the period before the disease worsened by more than 3.5 months.

At this point there is little data indicating that people with ovarian cancer treated with Avastin (bevacizumab) live longer. 

Medicynical Note:  In the past the end points for a cancer treatment advance was actual proof of shrinkage of tumor masses and a significant survival benefit.  In recent years companies have tried to sell “delay in progression” as proof of benefit.  Often as not however, this “delay”, when found, is not repeatable on follow-up trials and/or there was no observed survival benefit.    That was the case when the FDA deauthorized this same drug’s use in breast cancer because the short delay in progression was not replicated and did not increase breast cancer patients’ length of life.

The problems with Avastin are it’s outrageous price, in the range of $100,000/year and the apparent fact that it is only marginally effective.  This type drug is marketed to desperate patients with life threatening illness and priced way out of proportion to it’s benefit, or even development costs.  It is a fact that most of the early development costs came not from drug companies but rather from taxpayers in the form of research grants.

At a cost to consumers and insurers of nearly $100,000/year, more than practically any other consumer purchase, and just a few months delay in progression–Would you buy a $100,000 car that lasted 3.5 months?–it’s hard to be enthusiastic .

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