Today the FDA withdrew its approval for Avastin’s use as a breast cancer treatment. The FDA’s decision was based on large-scale clinical trials that failed to show Avastin improves life expectancies or controls tumor size. The lack of any statistically significant positive benefits combined with serious side effects, such as high blood pressure and hemorrhaging, has pulled this drug from the shelves.
But, some women and physicians (some with financial connections to Avastin’s manufacturer Genentech) believe that Avastin has been effective in treating particular cases of breast cancer. One protester said that the FDA’s decision is “nothing short of a death sentence” for some women.
The problem for Avastin’s promoters is that although it is conceivable that some women might benefit from Avastin therapy — even if women, in general, do not — we do not know how to predict which women these are.
Although the FDA did not consider cost in its analysis, Avastin’s $80,000/patient/year expense also does not counsel for its unsubstantiated use.
So, how is aerial fire retardant like Avastin? The Forest Service acknowledges that no data nor studies show that fire retardant improves initial attack success or decreases average fire size. In fact, fire data for the last ten years show no correlation between firefighting effectiveness and retardant use by national forest.
Fire retardant has known serious “side effects,” like dead fish and crashed airtankers. It is expensive, too, at over $1/gallon to administer — $3,000/drop from a large airtanker.
Although it is possible that fire retardant might be effective under some circumstances, we don’t know how to distinguish those fires from every other ignition.
Just substitute “fire retardant” for Avastin in this summary:
“Many breast cancer specialists say that Avastin does appear to work very well for some patients and some advocates have said the drug should be left on the market for the sake of those patients. But Dr. Hamburg said there was no way to determine in advance who those patients are, so many women would use the drug. “The evidence does not justify broad exposure to the risks of this drug,” she wrote.