Is the FDA’s Breast Cancer Committee Really an Obama Death Panel?

By Jim Edwards | July 30, 2010

Conservatives believe they have finally found President Obama’s healthcare reform Death Panel, and it’s the FDA’s advisory committee on Avastin, a cancer drug marketed by Roche (ROG.VX) and Genentech. They’re wrong, of course, and it’s telling that Andrew Breitbart (responsible for the phony Shirley Sherrod scandal) is in part behind this nonsense

That FDA panel voted 12-1 on July 20 to remove Avastin’s official designation as a breast cancer drug (it keeps its other cancer treatment indications). While the drug showed a small benefit for patients it came with so many serious side effects that panelists believe it should not be used for breast cancer. Earlier studies showed Avastin had a 6 month survival benefit, but the new studies revealed it’s much smaller than that, 2.9 months.

Sen. David Vitter, R-Louisiana, said the vote amounts to death panels by the backdoor:

“I shudder at the thought of a government panel assigning a value to a day of a person’s life,” Vitter said in the news release. “It is sickening to think that care would be withheld from a patient simply because their life is not deemed valuable enough. I fear this is the beginning of a slippery slope leading to more and more rationing under the government takeover of health care that is being forced on the American people.”

Vitter and Breitbart aren’t just wrong, they’re scientifically illiterate. Lack of interest or outright disbelief in science is a dangerous trend that’s very much alive in conservative America, and it’s going to harm us all if left unchecked (and not just because cancer patients would end up receiving dangerous drugs that don’t work very well if we followed their advice).


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