I woke up one morning and discovered via the leading newspapers that the FDA is withdrawing the cancer drug Avastin, the main focus of my cancer treatment. It seems that women with stage 1V breast cancer do not live long after taking the drug and may die of its side effects. Oh my god I thought, I must be dead.
I went immediately to my calendar to count the months between my last treatment and now. I had finished treatment with Avastin and parataxal on the fifteenth of April and now it was five months later, I had just passed my live by date. The news reported that I had six more months to live at best. I’ve had Avastin and Paclitaxel together and according to the report my last few months have been easier but my life span has not been increased.
I must be having terrible side effects … or so it said in the news. In actual fact, I feel better all the time, and most of my lasting side effects come from surgeries. Although I still have a tiny bit of cancer, it is inactive. Embarrassed by not living up to the newspaper statistics, I didn’t know where to put myself: was I dead, dying, or suffering silent but deathly side effects?
The FDA decided against Avestin as a treatment for Stage 1V breast cancer because it does not extend your life expectancy or add to your quality of life. OK I understand that – officially I am dead or soon to be dead, and my improved life quality is imaginary.
So what about the 17,000 American women who are being treated at this very moment with Avastin and have just heard the news that it was being withdrawn? The reason for this was supposedly nothing to do with the cost or politics. Right, we all believe that, don’t we?
The last people we should feel sorry for are Roche, the drug company who lost a significant amount of money off their shares. But the point is that according to our congressmen their decisions have nothing to do with the cost of the drug, only its efficiency. PLEASE – the media has made sure that everyone knows that Avastin is expensive; Congress would have to be idiots to disregard this information. But of course politics doesn’t come in to it. OH NO?
When have I ever asked the government of the USA (where I was born) or the UK (where I now live) what drug I should take? I get led all over the planet by media proposing cancer cures but the government now wants to have its say. I think if my medical treatment is left to this cumbersome bureaucracy I should take an overdose and be done with it. Reading the scope of responsibility for the Federal Drug Administration described in wikipedia is enough to make you shudder.
The argument pro the FDA decision to withdraw the drug says that patients (women) are desperate to do anything to save them from dying from breast cancer. They would even have the government pay – or self pay – for treatment that extends life for a couple of months. OH MY we are naughty, naughty women.
Since American women may now have to pay for their own Avastin, they will have to ask themselves if a few months of life is worth it. I think about how much my illness has cost, and I wonder. It is a horrible question to have to ask yourself, and it is a question only answered in TV – Hollywood fiction land. ‘She was alive to see her daughter married.’ Whether you should take the drug or not is as difficult to answer as ‘What is life?’ or ‘What happens when we die?’. All the medical ethics courses in the world can’t answer that question for us, nor can a government committee.
Just as I was made certain that death was inevitable; and then, guess what?
Reuters: WASHINGTON – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Friday (Sept 17) delayed a decision involving the use of Roche Holding AG (RHHBY, ROG.VX)’s top-selling cancer drug Avastin in advanced breast cancer.
Roche’s Genentech unit, which sells Avastin in the U.S., said the drug’s review was extended by three months to Dec. 17. The company said it submitted additional information to the agency, but wouldn’t provide details. The FDA usually follows the advice of its panels of nonmedical experts, but isn’t required to do so.
Since the July panel decision, the FDA has been bombarded with letters and petitions from women, some congressional lawmakers, and groups such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance. In a recent letter to the FDA, the cancer groups urged the agency to allow use of Avastin for breast cancer because the drug has been shown to work well in some patients.
OK I get it, I may not be dead yet. I have got to the point where I am uncomfortable in purgatory. PLEASE let them make up their minds. Thank goodness my oncologist the renowned Dr Margaret Spittle doesn’t have to consult a committee every time she makes a decision about my care.
Meanwhile, let’s consider the financial aspect.
The Avastin (which no doubt put my cancer on hold) was according to the FDA a waste of money.
Readers of my blog, Cancer Curmudgeon, know I fantasize about going around the world on a jet plane. It only takes a month and without any drugs at all I might have still lived that month. Avastin is probably at least a contributing reason I am still alive and my insurance company wisely covered this medication; but they will not cover the next part of my plan, the travelling.
Darn! I could have saved someone some money.