Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Death Panels

During the Obamacare debate, Sarah Palin was lambasted by statists for suggesting that BO's bill would result in rationing of care by government bureaucrats who would sit in their Washington DC offices and decide who would live and who would die based on their actuarial tables and cost/benefit formulas. She called them "Death Panels".

Turns out she was right.

In December the FDA rescinded the approval of Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer.

Avastin is a miracle drug that currently represents the last, best hope for women with metastatic breast cancer. Each year 17,500 women are treated with Avastin, a late-stage breast cancer drug that restricts blood flow to tumors, slowing their growth, shrinking them, sometimes even eliminating them. The drug typically extends a patient's life for a few months, but in some cases they live for years. Both the Susan G. Komen Foundation and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance strongly support use of Avastin and have been publicly urging the FDA not to revoke its approval. The National Comprehensive Cancer Network, a nonprofit alliance of oncologists that produces treatment standards recognized in more than 100 countries, still supports the drug as a breast cancer treatment.

In making recommendations, the FDA's Oncologic Drugs Advisory Committee is supposed to consider only clinical evidence of the drug's safety and effectiveness. However, ODAC member University of Nebraska oncologist Jean Grem stated that the drug's hefty price tag was a factor in their decision. Revoking Avastin's approval would reduce the cost of government-funded health care by nearly half a billion dollars, but it would also make the lifesaving treatment unavailable to patients with private insurance. The decision to rescind Avastin's approval is currently being appealed, and hopefully will be overturned. However, the fact that the FDA wields the power to deny the public access to a treatment because of government budgetary considerations remains problematic.

The government drug-rationing that begins with Avastin isn't going to stop with Avastin. Dr. Donald Berwick, the Obama administration's recess appointee heading up the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, has said that "it's not a question of whether or not we will ration health care," but "whether we will ration with our eyes open."

As I argued during the Obamacare debate, rationing of care will have a devastating impact on innovation of new treatments. This case illustrates how that will happen. Genentech, a division of Roche Pharmaceuticals, spent $2.3 billion in research and development to produce Avastin. If the FDA can refuse to allow a new treatment because of government rationing rather than clinical effectiveness, companies will simply stop investing the huge sums of money necessary to develop new lifesaving treatments.

When government takes control of your health care, your life is in the hands of unaccountable bureaucrats who you can't fire, and they will make decisions which you can not appeal, decisions which can greatly impact your life, decisions which may mean death for you or a family member or loved one, decisions which should rightfully be made by you and your doctor, not by the Federal Government.

1 comment:

todd said...

Medical marijuana will take it's place. Don't worry!