Avastin Will Still be Covered

Medicare to continue paying for Avastin to treat advanced breast cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Even though a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel has voted to no longer approve Avastin (bevacizumab) for treating late-stage breast cancers, Medicare has indicated it will continue to pay for the drug.

A spokesman said that the FDA's ruling doesn't affect Medicare policies.

"Medicare will keep paying for Avastin to treat advanced breast cancer."

A panel of cancer experts voted this week to change the labeling on Avastin so that it's not approved for treating metastatic breast cancer. This upholds a ruling the FDA made late last year following four studies which showed the drug didn't extend the lives of breast cancer patients.

The drug's manufacturer, Roche Holdings, appealed that decision, and an unprecedented two-day hearing was held earlier this week.

The FDA Commissioner will make a final decision on the future of Avastin as a breast cancer treatment.

Physicians are still able to prescribe Avastin for breast cancer, regardless of what regulators decide. However, there is a concern that a change in labeling may influence Medicare and private insurers not to pay its sizeable pricetag - some $88,000 annually.

Genentech, Roche's U.S. unit, plans to continue providing free access to Avastin to patients who don't have insurance or whose insurance drops covering, a unit spokesman said.

The medication is still approved to treat a number of late-stage cancers, including colorectal, kidney and lung. Avastin is also used as a treatment for a form of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme.

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Review Date: 
June 30, 2011
Last Updated:
August 21, 2012