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Friday, December 3, 2010

A Tale Of Two Drugs - or - Rationing Your Rhetoric

While conservatives have been framing virtually every medical story this year as proof that recently passed healthcare reform is already resulting in "rationing" -

Now, Hot Air takes on the latest story - does The Pill cause cancer?

Does the Pill increase the risk of certain cancers in women? Even this question gets fraught with politics, as a search of news sites will quickly prove. However, the National Cancer Institute (part of HHS) does concur that use of the Pill increases risks of breast cancer with longer-term use, especially by younger women, cervical cancer, and liver cancer. It also reduces risk of endometrial cancer, and may or may not have impact in either direction on ovarian cancer, although most studies show a slight decrease in risk among Pill users.

Given those risks, women should be informed before taking the Pill in order to make an intelligent and responsible decision. Most who take the pill would probably still take it, as a balance against the risks of sexual activity and pregnancy. However, since more than half of all women who take or have taken the Pill begin at age 18 or younger, they seem particularly at risk for breast cancer, and yet only 19% of those who are taking or have taken the Pill had been warned of that particular risk. Less than half were warned about weight gain, and that is the one risk most discussed according to the survey. Just over a third had been warned about the increased risks of depression, and that risk can easily be moderated by dosage adjustments — but only if the patient is aware enough to link the depression to the Pill.


It's precisely that sort of information that should be given to patients that was ultimately spun completely sideways by that same Ed Morrissey who would like women to be informed about The Pill.

Avastin got approved through a fast-track process demanded by Congress several years ago when complaints about the length of getting new treatments approved reached a fever pitch. Subsequent testing has called into question some of the assumptions made about Avastin, particularly about the effectiveness in delaying advanced tumor generation in breast cancer. However, others note that the drug works for a large number of women, even if it doesn’t necessarily work for them all.


That "fast-track" process helped create the illusion that Avastin was a superior drug that should be given blanket approval because of it's high percentage of success in combating cancer. The only problem is that Avastins works better in theory rather than in practice.

Even with proper information given to patients, conservatives have still been sounding the alarm that the Obama administration is going to prevent specific cross-sections of American from getting needed treatments. So why the sudden change of heart from Morrissey and Hot Air?

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