And oncologists will still have the option of prescribing Avastin "off label" to their patients with metastatic breast cancer.
But Lippman noted that any FDA revocation of the drug's approval might prompt insurance companies to stop paying for Avastin, which can cost $80,000 a year. "I hope there would be some recommendation around that," he said.
Meanwhile, on Thursday, Don McLeod, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, said Medicare will continue to pay for the drug as a breast cancer treatment even if the FDA withdraws that approval.
However, Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, said even the panel's recommendation may make some doctors less willing to prescribe Avastin.
"The hope is that patients getting the drug who are having a good response will still have access to the drug. And, that's what's being put in jeopardy," she said.
In the midst of all the action and reaction in the United States, pharmaceutical giant Roche, which owns Genentech, announced on Thursday that the European Commission had just broadened Avastin's existing use in metastatic breast cancer, allowing it in tandem with the chemotherapy drug Xeloda.
For more on breast cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.
SOURCES: Marc E. Lippman, M.D., professor and chairman, department of medicine, deputy director, Sylvester Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Miami Miller School of Medicine; Paula Klein, M.D., department of medicine, Beth Israel Medical Center, New York City; Stephanie Bernik, M.D., chief of surgical oncology, Lenox Hill Hospital,
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