drug issues call for collaboration and creative solutions

The Avastin® issue looms like a dark cloud ready to burst over some 17,000  women who have found success in treatment from this biological drug that starves cancer tumors of blood flow. Although I think we need drugs that do more good than harm, which is what the FDA committee says the studies fail to demonstrate for Avastin, these 17,000 women fall into an area that defies the statistics.

No one knows what will happen. Will the insurance companies grandfather treatment that is showing success rather than end coverage for those patients? Not many will be able to afford the cost of this most expensive drug if the insurance companies fail to cover that burden.

I was one of the patients who took Avastin only to have my blood pressure spike to dangerous highs. I have been on medication for blood pressure ever since. I know that sometimes the treatment can kill us, and that’s why clinical studies are important. We have to rely on the science to let us know whether treatment is more beneficial than harmful.

Yet, what do we do with those who show remarkable progress despite the clinical studies? I think we need to find answers for these questions because they will not cease. If your disease is progressing and nothing works except for a particular drug that proves to be much less effective for the general population of patients who use it, does it make sense that that drug be removed from that individual’s already limited arsenal? I think we need other solutions. We need discussions and collaboration. Perhaps between the insurance and the pharmaceutical companies. They have the money, and they certainly benefit financially from a successful solution. But money is not the only issue and certainly not the most important: lives are at stake. Who would argue that the greater ethical question is not about the financial issue but about patients’ lives.

Maybe it is time for the big money handlers in this business to create solutions by collaborating. Some drug companies are already helping patients by contributing to the cost of certain drugs prescribed during treatment of cancer. It would certainly make more sense to help pay the price of treatment with your drug than to back away and let the insurance companies thrash around for months until they regurgitate another denial of payment and life-saving treatment.

For now we can only hope that the dark cloud will dissipate with a solution for those 17,000 women who do not need another cloud burst.

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© 2004–2011 Donna Peach. All rights reserved.

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