Medicare panel backs Provenge

A Medicare advisory committee backed Dendreon's prostate cancer vaccine Provenge yesterday, thus increasing the chances federal insurance program will pay for the drug. The treatment costs $93,000 a patient and extends patients' lives by about four months.

The panel's average confidence score (on a scale of 1 to 5) was 3.6 for evidence of an overall survival benefit, according to the Wall Street Journal. The committee also voted that there was inadequate evidence Provenge would help other kinds of patients, such as those who were either sicker than those studied to get Provenge approved or those who were not as sick, the Washington Post notes.

As with FDA advisory panels, the committee's backing isn't binding on the agency. The coverage decision will include a one-month public-comment period and a proposed decision by the end of March, then a final decision by the end of June.

In the first three months following the FDA's approval of Provenge, Dendreon was able to gin a mere $2.8 million in sales as it began to ramp up production. But sales are rising at a fast pace and July saw more than $5 million in new Provenge revenue as the Seattle-based company picks up the pace as it heads towards its blockbuster goal of $1 billion a year.

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ALSO: An experimental drug is showing what some experts say is intriguing effectiveness in treating a major cause of death and disability for men with prostate cancer--tumors that have spread to the bone. The experimental drug, XL184, is the lead drug candidate of Exelixis, a biotechnology company in South San Francisco, CA. Report