Avastin

Company: Roche ($RHHBY)
2013 Global Sales: $6.75 billion
Indications: Colorectal, lung, ovarian and brain cancer

Avastin has been a Roche cancer staple for quite some time now, winning its first approval--for treating colon cancer--a decade ago. Since then, the drug--which works by starving tumors of their blood supply--has racked up a number of new uses. Among the recent ones: Last year, the FDA approved it with chemotherapy as a second-line treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer, and Japan gave it the go-ahead as a first-line brain cancer treatment. Beyond that, it also has indications in breast, lung, kidney and ovarian cancers.

Last year, sales of the med shot up 13%. That came largely on the back of ovarian cancer sales in Europe and increased use in colorectal cancer in Europe and the U.S., the Basel-based drugmaker said.

But it hasn't been all sunshine and daydreams for Avastin since it hit the market. 2010 saw the FDA retract its approval as a breast cancer treatment, and the European Medicines Agency limited its use in breast cancer after trial data called its effectiveness into question. Government price watchdogs have also posed problems along the way, including the U.K.'s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Still, patients can access the drug through England's special Cancer Drugs Fund, which puts an extra £200 million ($337 million) a year into the National Health Service to cover new oncology treatments that NICE has rejected--and Avastin is the med most frequently paid for through that fund. -- Carly Helfand (email | Twitter)

For more:
Special Report: The 10 best-selling drugs of 2013 - Avastin
Avastin scores first-line brain-cancer use in Japan
Will U.K. watchdogs change their minds on Avastin in ovarian cancer?
U.K. likely to pay for Avastin despite another NICE rejection

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