Genentech Announces Annual Expenditure Cap of $55K for Cancer Medication Avastin

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Cancer Treatment Drug Cap

Genentech on Wednesday announced that it would cap the total cost of its cancer treatment Avastin at $55,000 annually for patients who have incomes below a certain level, the New York Times reports.

Clinical trials of Avastin, which works by limiting the blood supply to tumors, have shown that the drug extends the lives of lung cancer patients by about two months. The treatment costs about $4,400 monthly to treat colorectal cancer and about $8,800 a month, or more than $100,000 annually, to treat lung cancer.

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The high cost of the drug has "made Genentech the target of fierce criticism from some doctors, patient advocates, the news media and politicians," the Times reports. The expenditure cap would apply to all patients, including those with private insurance or Medicare.

The program would cover all approved uses of the drug. Walter Moore, vice president for government affairs at Genentech, said the income level for eligible patients would probably be $75,000 annually or more, although it has not yet been determined. Moore said some patients also would qualify for no-cost drugs or help with copayments under existing programs. Jerry Flanagan, health care policy director at the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights, said that Genentech "cannot expect that this will appease patients that are being priced out of life itself."

Richard Gralla, president of the New York Lung Cancer Alliance, said that Avastin is not cost-effective for society because a large investment of money is required to prolong life for a short period of time (Pollack, New York Times, 10/12).

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