Avastin: Why Does This Cancer Drug Cost So Much?

expensive, drugsDespite a price that can reach $100,000 a year, Avastin has become one of the most popular cancer drugs in the world. In 2007, sales of the drug reached $3.5 billion, with $2.3 billion in the United States.

But studies show the drug prolongs life by only a few months, if that. And some newer studies suggest the drug might be less effective against cancer than the FDA believed when the drug was approved.

Avastin also has serious, if infrequent, side effects, some of which can be lethal. And because it is almost always used with standard chemotherapy, patients on Avastin also face chemotherapy’s side effects.

If Avastin were inexpensive, or if it truly held cancer at bay, few might care. But Avastin raises troubling questions. What does it mean to say the drug works? Is slowing the growth of tumors enough if life is not significantly prolonged or improved? How much evidence should there be before billions of dollars are spent on a drug? And when should cost be factored into the equation?

Some in the pharmaceutical industry believe that the price of Avastin will raise concerns about whether drugs are worth it, leading to a backlash like price controls or restrictions on use.
Dr. Mercola's Comments:
Upon receiving a cancer diagnosis, most people are willing to do just about anything to get better. So dangling a drug that could possibly extend their life -- even if it’s only for a few months -- in front of someone in this emotionally fragile state is like asking a child if he wants some candy.

And this is why Genetech is able to charge so much.

People are simply not worried about money at a time like that. They’re willing to pay anything to stay alive. And Genetech is ready-and-waiting to exploit the situation.

Giving Up Everything for a Drug That Doesn’t Work

About 100,000 people in the United States currently take Avastin, although studies are underway to approve the drug for earlier stages of cancer, which could mean hundreds of thousands more people could be on the drug for years at a time.

And at a price tag of up to $100,000 a year, even with insurance coverage that can mean paying $20,000 a year or more out of pocket.

It bears repeating that maybe the cost could be justified if the drug actually worked. But study after study shows it does very little in extending lifespan.

Last year an FDA panel even recommended AGAINST approving Avastin for expanded use in breast cancer patients, but the FDA went against this advice and approved the drug anyway!

This is despite the fact that it says right on Avastin’s own Web site “no data are available that demonstrate an improvement in disease-related symptoms or increased survival with Avastin in breast cancer.”

Even the former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, was appalled by the price-gouging going on with cancer drugs: "It's really exploiting the desperation of people with a life-threatening illness," she said.

Worse Yet -- Avastin Can be Fatal

This, on top of the exorbitant price tag, makes the drug even harder to stomach. Among the many potential side effects of Avastin are:
  • Gastrointestinal perforation: “These events occurred throughout the course of treatment and in some cases resulted in fatality,” Avastin’s Web site states.
  • Hemorrhage: Some people who received Avastin for lung cancer died of hemoptysis, a severe bleeding problem at the site of the tumor.
  • Slow or incomplete wound healing, which in some cases resulted in more fatalities.
Other major risks are:
  • Strokes and heart problems
  • Severe hypertension
  • Nervous system and vision disturbances
  • Reduced white blood cell count, which may increase your risk of infection
  • Severe kidney malfunction
And the list goes on … congestive heart failure, weakness, pain, headache, nausea, diarrhea, loss of appetite, nosebleeds, difficulty breathing, upper respiratory infection, constipation, mouth sores, and skin irritation are also possible.

What are Your Options for Treating Cancer Without Drugs?

Drugs, surgery and radiation are typically the only solutions offered by conventional physicians to treat cancer. Not surprisingly, cancer drugs now make up the second biggest category of drugs in the United States (cholesterol-lowering meds are the first).

In all, cancer drugs brought in nearly $18 billion in 2007, according to IMS Health, and spending rose 14 percent.

These drugs are offered as the only option, but did you know that conventional chemotherapy has a dismal 2.5 percent cure rate?

In my mind, curing cancer is the same as curing any other disease, and I firmly believe that you can virtually eliminate your cancer risk, and radically improve your chances of full recovery from cancer if you currently have it, by following all-natural strategies to optimize your health and innate regenerative power.

A large part of this has to do with supporting your immune system and healing your emotional health.

The 12 Steps to Keeping Cancer Away -- PERMANENTLY

To trigger your body’s self-healing abilities and help prevent cancer in the first place, here are my top 12 tips:

1. Reduce your processed food, sugar and grain carbohydrate intake. Yes, this is even true for whole unprocessed organic grains as they tend to rapidly break down and drive your insulin and leptin levels up, which is the last thing you need to have happening if you are seeking to resolve a cancer.

2. Control your fasting insulin and leptin levels: This is the end result, and can be easily monitored with the use of simple and relatively inexpensive blood tests.

3. Normalize your ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats by taking a high-quality krill oil or fish oil and reducing your intake of most processed vegetable oils.

4. Get regular exercise. One of the primary reasons exercise works is that it drives your insulin levels down. Controlling insulin levels is one of the most powerful ways to reduce your cancer risks.

5. Normalize your vitamin D levels by getting plenty of sunlight exposure and consider careful supplementation when this is not possible. If you take oral vitamin D and have a cancer it would be very prudent to monitor your vitamin D blood levels regularly.

6. Get a good night's sleep.

7. Eat according to your nutritional type. The potent anti-cancer effects of this principle are very much underappreciated. When we treat cancer patients in our Natural Health Center, this is one of the most powerful anti-cancer strategies we have.

8. Reduce your exposure to environmental toxins like pesticides, household chemical cleaners, synthetic air fresheners and air pollution.

9. Limit your exposure and provide protection for yourself from information-carrying radio waves produced by cell phone towers, base stations, phones and WiFi stations.

10. Avoid frying or charbroiling your food. Boil, poach or steam your foods instead .

11. Have a tool to permanently reprogram the neurological short-circuiting that can activate cancer genes. Even the CDC states that 85 percent of disease is caused by emotions. It is likely that this factor may be more important than all the other physical ones listed here, so make sure this is addressed. My particular favorite tool for this, as you may know, is the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT). German New Medicine is another powerful tool.

12. Use broccoli sprouts as an adjunct to everything above unless you simply do not like broccoli.

+ Sources and References