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Medicare will keep covering Roche's Avastin

Last Updated: 2011-06-30 14:10:16 -0400 (Reuters Health)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Medicare will continue coverage of Roche Holdings' drug Avastin for breast cancer regardless of what U.S. health regulators decide about the medicine, a spokesperson for the U.S. health insurer said.

"The FDA decision, when it comes, does not affect CMS," Don McLeod, a spokesman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS), said on Thursday.

"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.

A panel of advisers to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) unanimously rejected Avastin for breast cancer on Wednesday, saying the drug was not safe or clinically beneficial for treating the disease.

Patients who said Avastin saved their lives testified during the two-day hearing that they worried about losing insurance coverage if the FDA rejected the drug.

Avastin costs $8,000 a month.

FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will consider the panel's recommendation, and make a final decision on Avastin at a later date.

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