Health Care

9 Day Warning: Will FDA Ration Care by Cost?

| by Bret Jacobson

In the quiet winter of Beltway politics, it's not just good policy that goes to die uncomfortable deaths: It's also Americans. It is now just 9 days until the FDA is expected to make a decision on whether it will ration Avastin, a cancer-treatment drug.

Avastin is a drug that cannot cure cancer, but it does extend the quality-life time that patients experience. If we are unable to cure cancer, we at least owe patients the ability to live and enjoy their lives to the largest extent possible without Uncle Sam playing Grim Reaper. Simply put, an attempt by the government to cut back on the drug's good-housekeeping seal of approval for cost reasons won’t be good for patients.

As proponents of our nation's healthcare-reform efforts reminded us constantly, all care is rationed. Sometimes it's rationed by a patient's own resources. But it certainly shouldn't be the role of the state to ration time-of-life decisions, lest we all face the slippery slope in to some strange dystopian futures.

That's not just my political opinion. Peter J. Pitts, a former FDA associate commissioner, wrote on the subject just yesterday:

So, what would happen if the FDA decided to rescind its approval of Avastin for breast cancer patients?

Well, for one, the agency would be removing a viable treatment option for many terminally ill Americans. But it would also be setting a troubling precedent when it comes to the relationship between doctors and patients.

Yet that may be precisely what happens 9 days from now. That’s not long for the first step toward a slippery—deadly slippery—slope. As has been said (but bears repeating), we’re all worse off if the folks who brought you the DMV start influencing patient care decisions. Far better to let the market, with warts and all, work its magic. 

The forthcoming FDA action needs more attention by Congress -- and while they're thinking about healthcare policy, they should consider striking down ObamaCare's individual mandate.

Bret Jacobson is president of Maverick Strategies + Communications, which represents free-market advocates.