U.S. Sen. David Vitter today made the following comments in response to the Food and Drug Administration's announcement last week that it was delaying its decision regarding the use of Avastin for treatment of metastatic breast cancer.
"Along with thousands of breast cancer patients like Pat Howard and Christi Turnage, I've been pushing the FDA for months to explain why they want to take this proven life-extending option away from the 17,500 women who use it in their fight against cancer," said Vitter. "The FDA was trying to railroad through a decision to revoke approval for Avastin, but by highlighting the stories of the many women who are benefiting from it we forced the agency to take another look at the evidence. I will continue working with the FDA and CMS to ensure that women have access to Avastin as they battle this terrible disease. We've absolutely got to hold the line to prevent government agencies from attempting this or any other form of rationing in the future."
"I am pleased that the FDA gave consideration to the thousands of women who are responding to treatment with Avastin. I know the petition and the many letters that were written had to have an effect on their decision, and I appreciate Sen. Vitter's continued efforts to bring attention to this issue," said Pat Howard, a breast cancer survivor taking Avastin who testified before the FDA advisory panel in July. "Over the past several months, I have met many new friends -- women like me who are having a positive response to Avastin with no evidence of disease shown. I'm hopeful that the new data gathered will forcefully make the case that Avastin is an effective medicine for many, many women."
"I'd like to thank the FDA for giving this matter more consideration. I pray that they will indeed listen to the oncologists, advocacy groups and the comments made by the thousands of survivors who continue to add their names to our petition because they believe that Avastin is beneficial for many patients," said Christi Turnage, another breast cancer survivor who helped start an online petition that has received more than 7,000 signatures from survivors and their friends and family since July. "Many of us have few other treatment options. Access to Avastin for patients throughout this process must be a priority, and we need to be able to continue our treatments while further studies are being conducted."
Since July, Vitter has written three letters and made numerous phone calls to FDA officials demanding insight into the agency's decision-making process regarding Avastin, including his concerns that the agency was considering the cost of the drug in its evaluations. He also successfully sponsored an amendment to overturn a government task force's recommendation to limit access to early-detection screenings for women at risk of breast cancer.