Today, the story is Avastin, a drug that, when used in combination with traditional chemo-therapies, has had success in extending the lives of those suffering from certain metastatic cancers. The drug had been approved in 2008 for use with breast cancer. Unfortunately, new studies reviewed by the FDA suggest Avastin doesn't work on breast cancer suffers like it did on those with other cancers. The FDA indicated it would pull its approval of Avastin for treating breast cancer. If they do so, then insurers (including Medicare) will no longer cover the expensive treatment.
There was another outcry from breast cancer sufferers, including some who claim to be helped by Avastin. Now, the FDA has decided to postpone its decision for another 90 days, and review more evidence.
One can only wonder what led the FDA to delay. Was it political pressure? And if so, what does this suggest as our government becomes increasingly charged with setting medical treatment standards throughout the health care system?
The politicization of medicine is just one of the dangers of government-run health care. More fundamentally, Americans reject the idea of patients’ options being limited by government fiat, regardless of the process used to make those recommendations. Americans rightfully worry that by growing government's role in providing health insurance and dictating what insurance policies must and must not cover, we are moving toward a one-size-fits-all system, where patients and doctors will have less freedom to decide a treatment course.
This is the wrong direction for health care reform. Americans want more choices and more control over health care decisions. Our pre-reform system left too many Americans without meaningful choices about their health insurance coverage. Peculiarities in the law that favor employer-provided insurance and limit competition among insurers have prevented the existence of a functioning, robust health insurance market. These are the flaws that should have been the focus of reform efforts, and federal assistance should have been target to those who truly couldn't obtain insurance on their own.
Unfortunately, Congress moved in the other direction, toward a one-size-fits-all government dictate. The result will be less freedom and control for individuals, and increasing political wars about what constitutes the best treatment course.
As a result, Breast Cancer Awareness Month may end up being more than just an occasion to focus on this deadly disease, but a yearly reminder of the danger of government-run, one-size-fits-all health care.