PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — The fight to save a breast cancer drug. Desperate patients and their doctors are battling a recommendation to withdraw the drug.
Losing her hair was the easy part for 41-year-old Pam McCabe. The thought of leaving her sons is the hard part. Pam has an aggressive breast cancer. Doctors have told her she has one to three years left. She’s most worried about her 10-year-old, Nicholas.
“I’m not going to be around for him. I’m sorry for him, which is tough. I won’t be able to see him graduate. I don’t think I’ll make it that long,” said Pam.
Her last hope could be a drug she just started called Avastin. It stops blood flow to tumors.
“I feel so much better,” said Pam.
But Avastin might not be available soon. An FDA Advisory Panel has recommended that its approval be revoked saying follow up studies on women with advanced breast cancer show it’s not life saving and the risks outweigh any potential benefits.
“I don’t like it,” said Dr. Gregory Harper, with Lehigh Valley Health Network. He says if the FDA follows the advisory panels’ recommendation, which it usually does, breast cancer patients would be unfairly hurt.
“That doesn’t make sense to me. Avastin’s approved in lung cancer. It’s approved in colorectal cancer. Experienced oncologist, we manage this drug successfully,” said Dr. Harper. He says side effects, like high blood pressure, can be dealt with.
Avastin is prescribed to over 17,000 women a year. If the FDA pulls the approval, doctors would still be able to use it off label, but are worried insurance wouldn’t pay, and it would be too expensive for most women, over $8,000 a month.
“It’s frightening more than anything. I’m angry about it,” said Priscilla Howard, a 71-year-old who says Avastin has given her another Christmas with her family. And she’s on a mission to save the drug.
“It’s been working for me for two years. I should be dead. I’m not. You know, I’m still doing everything I want to do and being with my family,” said Priscilla. She is among thousands of people who have signed a petition to the FDA, pleading with the agency not to reverse the approval.
Pam is scared the FDA might take away her last chance.
“Tell that to my boys when I die that you couldn’t, you know, I couldn’t stay on something to help prolong my life. You explain that to them, you know why mom died too soon,” said Pam.
A spokesperson for the maker of Avastin says women like Pam should have options, and while the drug might not be right for all patients with metastatic breast cancer it shouldn’t be pulled.
The FDA decision is expected before Christmas.
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Reported By: Stephanie Stahl, CBS 3