The cost of ObamaCare’s ‘savings’

Sally C. Pipes's picture

The new healthcare law gives the federal government unprecedented control over medical decisions. And one bureaucrat in particular looks to be leading the crusade for more public power: Dr. Donald Berwick, the new director of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

CMS may be obscure. But it wields enormous influence over the availability of treatments. If CMS decides a treatment isn’t worth its price, public insurance programs like Medicare and Medicaid will stop covering it, and patients will lose access to the treatment.

Berwick is an ardent supporter of rationing. As he said last year, “the decision is not whether or not we will ration care — the decision is whether we will ration with our eyes open.”

This troubling philosophy has been on full display during the government’s recent consideration of Avastin, the cutting-edge cancer drug.

Breast cancer patients have relied on Avastin for many years. For millions of women, the drug has slowed or stopped the progression of disease and improved quality of life. But this year, an FDA advisory panel recommended that Avastin be stripped of its FDA approval for use in breast cancer treatment.

The panel concluded that the drug, which will remain approved to treat other cancers, wasn’t showing enough promise against breast cancer. But we know that in the manufacturer’s crucial phase III trial, nearly 50 percent of patients receiving the medicine saw their tumors shrink — and that for some patients, Avastin has added years of life.

Two major cancer-fighting organizations think that’s enough. Susan G. Komen for the Cure and the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance sent a letter to the FDA, urging the agency not to revoke approval. They argued that choosing a treatment should be left up to patients and doctors — not taken off the table by a government agency.

So what’s really going on? There’s speculation that another factor was involved — namely, money. One year of Avastin treatment costs roughly $88,000.

If the FDA accepts the panel’s recommendations, Avastin would only be available as an “off label” prescription to breast cancer patients. This could mean that Medicare would stop covering the drug. Enrollees suffering from breast cancer would have to use alternative treatments — even if they’re less effective.

Instructively, public officials have taken the opposite position on Avastin when it comes to treatment for macular degeneration — a condition that causes vision deterioration mainly for the elderly. The drug is widely used as an off-label treatment for the disease. And it’s relatively cheap in this case, costing just about $50 for treatment.

The other major drug for macular degeneration is Lucentis. It’s scientifically related to Avastin — and produced by the same company — but more expensive. It costs about $2,500 for a full treatment.

The price difference between Avastin and Lucentis could soon result in public officials actively pushing patients to use the latter. Right now, the National Institutes of Health is conducting a massive study comparing the safety and effectiveness of Avastin against Lucentis for the treatment of macular degeneration. The results will likely be used to justify clamping down on public coverage for Lucentis.

Again, patients will suffer. Avastin may well work for most of them. But the human body is tremendously complex. Some patients respond better to Avastin; others respond better to Lucentis. But, if the government has its way, they’ll lose the more expensive option.

America’s health system appears to be on the fast-track to British-style rationing. Indeed, CMS Chief Administrator Berwick has publicly professed his admiration for the British government’s National Health Service and its approach to health care.

In the U.K, Avastin is already withheld from breast cancer patients. The policy has taken a huge toll on human life. While American breast cancer patients have a five-year survival rate of 84 percent, their British peers have a rate of just 69 percent, according to a 2008 report in the Lancet, the prestigious medical journal.

If the Obama administration has its way, government bureaucrats could impose policies that push U.S. survival rates closer to the British ones.

We can’t let this happen. Policymakers need to fight to preserve patient choice. If not, government rationing will become the law of the land, and Americans will be deprived of vital medical options.

[Sally C. Pipes is president and CEO of the Pacific Research Institute. Her latest book, “The Truth About Obamacare” (Regnery 2010), was just published.]

plainjane
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Obamacare Savings

Sally Pipe and the Pacific Research folks are funded by the insurance industry - something to keep in mind when reading this propaganda.
The Avastin issue she writes about (with such a wealth of misinformation)is one example of the scare tactics used to try to block desperately needed health care reform.

AtHomeGym
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plainjane & health reform`

Fine--let's get some smart legislation going about REAL Healthcare reform NOT Health INSURANCE reform like what was passed. All I know is that as a result, my healthcare insurance is rising by 32% next year. Thanks a lot.

plainjane
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Obamacare Savings

Sally Pipe and the Pacific Research folks are funded by the insurance industry - something to keep in mind when reading this propaganda.
The Avastin issue she writes about (with such a wealth of misinformation)is one example of the scare tactics used to try to block desperately needed health care reform.

Chris P. Bacon
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Okay, let's talk about Avastin
Sally C. Pipes wrote:

This troubling philosophy has been on full display during the government’s recent consideration of Avastin, the cutting-edge cancer drug.

Breast cancer patients have relied on Avastin for many years. For millions of women, the drug has slowed or stopped the progression of disease and improved quality of life. But this year, an FDA advisory panel recommended that Avastin be stripped of its FDA approval for use in breast cancer treatment.

The panel concluded that the drug, which will remain approved to treat other cancers, wasn’t showing enough promise against breast cancer. But we know that in the manufacturer’s crucial phase III trial, nearly 50 percent of patients receiving the medicine saw their tumors shrink — and that for some patients, Avastin has added years of life.

Massive amounts of spin here.

Avastin is a BRAIN cancer drug. It has been proven to shrink BRAIN tumors.
It is scheduled to have its patent expire in 2018, at which time cheaper generic knockoffs will be available.

The makers of Avastin, seeking to expand their market in the interim, ran a small scale field test on using Avastin on terminally ill BREAST cancers in women in 2008 ("many years", in Pipes-speak). Initial results were promising: the average woman with terminal breast cancer lived almost 6 months longer. They received conditional approval based on the results of the small study to begin promoting Avastin for breast cancer treatment.

Permanent approval would come with the standard large-scale field test.

Unfortunately, the results of the large scale field test, completed in September 2010, did not match the results of the smaller field test. The average terminally ill breast cancer patient lived 9/10 of ONE month longer (about 27 days).

Plus, a rather large number of side-effects were discovered as a result of the larger field test, particularly very high blood pressure and kidney disease.

A board of FDA scientists evaluated the results of the large field test, saw the limited benefit coupled with the significant side effects, and recommended by a vote of 12-1 to rescind their conditional approval of using Avastin for treating breast cancer. It is still approved for treating brain cancer.

Folks, this is the way the medical system is supposed to work. The drug showed promise early on, was put on the fast track for approval. It didn't get the permanent approval because the benefit was minimal and the side-effects significant.

Shame of Sally Pipes for using such a ludicrous example to denigrate health care reform.

PTC Observer
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FDA approval - CPB?

"Folks, this is the way the medical system is supposed to work. The drug showed promise early on, was put on the fast track for approval. It didn't get the permanent approval because the benefit was minimal and the side-effects significant."

Why is the medical system suppose to work this way? So, we let the FDA decide who lives and who dies. We let the FDA decide if a drug can be used one way but not another?? Where do you think the FDA gets its data? Answer: From the very drug companies that are proposing the use of the drug.

The FDA is in the pockets of every drug company on earth. CPB have you ever worked with getting a drug or medical device through the FDA? I didn't think so.

We should dismantle the FDA and let drug companies put drugs and medical devices on the market for specific purposes. If they screw up and kill people then we take the entire upper management team and throw them in jail for the rest of their natural lives. No get out of jail either. In China they just take them out and shoot them. Now that's how the medical system should work. You make it a very personal risk and you will get very safe products.

The drug and medical device companies simply use the FDA as cover for their incompetence, increase our costs, and reduce competition. The government can't do anything to protect us, just like unions can't protect jobs. Right CPB?

Courthouserules
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I fully agree about letting the Pharmaceutical companies sell us medicine that they alone have reviewed and approved.
We have too many citizens anyway.
They could also make any pill much more cheaply than now, by eliminating all the proof of just how it works and that it isn't too dangerous.

A Constitutional amendment would be necessary in order to hang all of the senior executives and board members without a trial. So many citizens die from a pill, they die the next week.

That is a far cry from how most corporations handle it--for example the bankers who screw up and cause utter mayhem in our nation, are given
scores of millions as a going away present.

I suppose also if a bad artificial hip replacement doesn't work that we could simply put one of those replacements into those same officers, sprinkle it with contaminated feces, and permanently affix it to their heart by wire with a battery to kill them if removed.

I really had not thought of these methods to regulate serious mistakes in the USA. They did used to burn or drown witches.
Religious people tortured their members once in a while just to see if they could make them confess to sinning, before then killing them with an iron maiden or boiling them in a pot, to send them onto heaven before they sinned again.

The next one who was questioned who knew about the last one, always said exactly what they wanted to hear but he was tortured and killed anyway since he confessed.

All this pretend civilization we claim to have isn't working anyway. At least not for the TEAS, Libertarians, and Conservatives. The idea of all carrying guns and just shooting their way along sounds better all of the time.

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