Health

Blue Shield of California Won't Pay for Breast Cancer Drug

| by Michael Allen

Health insurer Blue Shield of California, with around 3.3 million members, has decided not to pay for Roche Holding’s drug Avastin to treat breast cancer.

In a notice posted on its web site. Blue Shield said the drug would no longer be covered as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer beginning October 17, however, some exceptions may be considered on a case-by-case basis.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) in June unanimously rejected use of Avastin for breast cancer. Without FDA approval, other insurers and government health programs likely will stop covering the $8,000-a-month drug.

Avastin won U.S. clearance for the disease in 2008 based on a study showing the drug stalled breast cancer growth by 5 months when used in combination with standard chemotherapy. As part of an accelerated approval, the FDA required Roche Holding to run follow-up studies.

Later studies found only a one- to three-month delay in breast cancer growth. None of the studies showed Avastin extended the lives of patients with advanced breast cancer.

Some patients also had severe side effects, including holes in the stomach and intestines, severe bleeding and blood clots. The company says the incidence of these serious side effects was just under 3 percent greater for those taking Avastin.

For more news about breast cancer, go to www.breastcancer.co