Tuesday, November 22, 2011

More big pharma news, hope still for sale

As expected, heads turned after the FDA rejected Genentech's block-buster drug Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer. Avastin has many other uses, but even with the FDA sanction, the drug as breast cancer treatment will not be stopped completely.
no company wants to be cast as so heartless that it would deprive a seriously ill cancer patient of a drug that might offer hope, however slim.
Genentech hopes to continue to supply this vital service to its customers, extending hope to their patients, while they charge private insurance and the government as much as $90,000/yr. per patient. For the hope. You can still fill out a form to establish you're under a specific income level and qualify for a $30K reduction in the price. They're incredibly generous.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Big pharma thrashes to protect its market

I've written several times on this blog about Avastin, the "last hope" pharmaceutical-- chemotherapy in other words-- which has the magical property of transfusing all of a patient's assets, including their entitlements under Medicare/Medicaid, into the coffers of the company who makes it.

Well, last weekend they released the results of a new study, or at least tossed out a trial balloon, implying that Avastin, manufactured by Genentech, can be used to destroy fat cells in obesity patients. I thought, reading about this at the time, what a dangerous and violent intervention this suggests-- treating obesity with chemotherapy is like treating zits with a belt sander.

Now, less than one week later, here's another bit of news which puts the first into perspective. The FDA no longer approves Avastin as a treatment for advanced breast cancer. The reason cited is it's not been shown to influence the outcome of breast cancer treatment except to make the patients sicker in their last days, and wring out the last of their money. A normal round of Avastin costs $85,000+, though with an application demonstrating financial need, the company will underwrite about $30,000 of that. Now that the FDA no longer approves of Avastin for cancer treatment, the company has offered to make their chemical available to melt fat from morbidly obese patients. Until now, insurance companies and Mediare/Medicaid paid the tab.

Imagine that! Federal entitlement funds, nearly $90,000 per patient, are injected directly into the bloodstream of big pharma. Well they can't do that with breast cancer patients now. They'll have to do it to the morbidly obese for now. Fie! And doesn't this demonstrate reverse income distribution?

Maybe it's time to Occupy our own health.