Is Avastin really worth the cost?

Is Avastin an object lesson in weighing the costs of an expensive drug against its benefits? Some experts think so, and the New York Times over the weekend took an extensive look at the controversy. The facts are these, the NYT says: Avastin is expensive, up to $100,000 per year. It's proven only to prolong life by a few months, if that. And it has side effects, some of which are rare but lethal.

According to the newspaper, some pharma insiders worry that the half-dozen or so drugs like Avastin--which are expensive and offer "arguable benefits"--will cause a backlash such as drug-price controls or usage restrictions. Even patient advocates question its use. But because cancer-treatment issues are emotionally touchy, and because Americans are accustomed to treatment whatever the monetary cost, the debate hasn't been very public. And that's what needs to change, some say. "I think of Avastin as a model that is showing us where the problem is," one told the Times.

The issue raises questions about how drugs are priced, too. Genentech and Roche say they spent $2.25 billion developing Avastin and will spend an additional $1 billion on clinical trials. But is this why Avastin is so costly? Yes and no, the experts say. One analyst told the Times, "It's high because Genentech can price it high."

- see the article

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