No Such Thing as an Average Cancer Patient

by Ryan Young on June 20, 2011 · 1 comment

in Health and Illness, Precaution & Risk, Regulation

CEI Senior Fellow Greg Conko has an excellent piece in today’s Wall Street Journal. Greg doesn’t think it’s right that the FDA is denying terminally ill patients access to potentially life-saving treatments.

The latest case in point is a drug called Avastin. It is approved for treating several types of cancer. But the FDA is moving to revoke its approval for treating breast cancer. This has, understandably, upset many breast cancer patients and their doctors.

The heart of the matter is who shall be in charge of treatment decisions. Should it be patients and doctors? Or should the FDA decide for them?

Greg thinks a decentralized approach is better. Different patients will react to the same drug in different ways. A doctor can see if Avastin works or not for a patient, and they can make the right decision from there. The FDA relies on averages and medians for making its approval decisions, ignoring individuals. The trouble with that is, as Greg points out, there is no such thing as an average cancer patient.

A few weeks ago, I interviewed Greg about Avastin and the FDA here.

Greg Hoffmann June 20, 2011 at 10:07 pm

And then when the drug doesn’t work and/or causes horrific and debilitating side effects (as Avastin in the treatment of metastatic breast cancer does), the affected patient sues the doctor and the drug manufacturer for damages. Brilliant. The fact of the matter is that the FDA is doing exactly what should be done with a drug that is PROVEN not to work: they’re pulling it from the market. Bravo to them for making a tough decision and for keeping thousands from getting a drug that simply doesn’t work often enough.

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