TUESDAY, April 17 (HealthDay News) -- Medicare patients who have advanced non-small cell lung cancer appear to get no survival benefit from adding the drug Avastin to standard chemotherapy, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report.
An earlier trial had found that Avastin (bevacizumab) did improve survival, but not in patients aged 65 and older. Even so, the researchers noted, most patients diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer are 65 and older and Medicare still covers the cost of the drug.
"A drug that we were just ecstatic about in 2006, we have to be more circumspect about," said lead researcher Dr. Deborah Schrag, an oncologist at Dana Farber, in Boston.
Avastin should be used judiciously, she added, noting that "older patients should discuss it with their doctors, but we cannot say it provides a survival advantage based on these data."
However, Schrag does not think Medicare needs to reconsider funding Avastin. "It may be that it helps some patients," she said. "But we should not assume that Avastin needs to be part of the treatment package."
Genentech, the maker of Avastin, said in a statement Tuesday that while the study "is well-conducted, retrospective analyses that use administrative information to determine clinical outcomes have limitations."
"Genentech agrees that certain people, such as those older than 65, are typically underrepresented in randomized, controlled clinical trials used for regulatory submissions. To address this, we collect and present data on the 'real world' use of medicines through large phase 4 prospective observational studies, which even when well-designed, also have limitations, including non-randomization of study participants."
The cost of the medication is also a factor in considering the use of Avastin, experts have said.
In 2011, published reports pegged the cost of the drug at somewh
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