An FDA advisory panel on Tuesday voted 12–1 to discontinue Avastin (bevacizumab) as a treatment for advanced breast cancer due to post-market studies stating that the treatment does not to increase patient lifespan by any significant length of time.
This is a huge problem for Roche who purchased the treatment as part of its merger with Genentech. The drug firm could see sales drop by $1 billion if FDA agrees with the panel and ceases use of the drug for breast cancer. The drug earned Roche $5.7 billion in 2009.
“We are disappointed by the committee’s recommendation and believe Avastin should continue to be an option for women with this incurable disease,” stated Sandra Horning, Roche’s global head of clinical development hematology/oncology, in a release. “We will continue to discuss the data from the more than 2,400 women who participated in three Phase III studies with the FDA. This recommendation does not impact Avastin’s approved uses for other cancer types.”
Avastin (in combination with chemotherapy) was given fast-track approval in early 2008, because it treated HER2 negative breast cancer, a form of the disease with few treatment options. FDA requested that Genetech release the results of two post-market trials to determine how effective the drug is at improving patient lifespan.
According to the two trials, the treatment only slowed cancer progression by approximately a month and didn’t do anything to boost patient survival. Additionally, patients taking Avastin had more adverse reactions than patients taking chemotherapy alone.
FDA will give a final ruling on Sept. 17.