Medicare will keep paying for patients to receive Avastin to treat breast cancer even if the Food and Drug Administration rescinds approval, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said on Thursday.
"The FDA decision, when it comes, does not affect CMS," spokesman Don McLeod told Reuters.
"The drug will still be on the market, doctors will still be prescribing it, and we will continue to pay for it," he said, adding that CMS often pays for off-label uses of drugs.
Advisers to FDA said that evidence clearly shows the world's best-selling cancer drug does not help breast-cancer patients live any longer and recommended that the agency revoke its approval for that indication. Avastin would still be approved for treatment of other tumor types.
Advocates and some breast-cancer patients complained -- and even demonstrated outside the FDA -- saying the decision would take away what they believe to be a life-saving drug. The CMS statement suggests that their fears are unfounded. Private insurers often follow CMS's lead in deciding what drugs to cover.