SIKESTON, MO (KFVS) - Last week, the Food and Drug Administration revoked its approval of the drug Avastin for treatment of breast cancer. Now, Julie Heppe, a Sikeston woman battling cancer, speaks out about her experience.
She says pulling Avastin is a mistake.
"I felt like I was going to live forever when I was taking Avastin," said Heppe.
Heppe took Avastin for three years before her body became resistant, something that's normal with any treatment. She says her quality of life those three years was excellent. She says Avastin was her wonder drug. The medication slows tumor growth for advanced forms of cancer. Heppe's fight with stage four breast cancer now spans seven years.
"I can not imagine if I had not had that drug," said Heppe.
The FDA made the decision based on potential side-effects, and also said Avastin did not show improvements in the average patient. Heppe disagrees.
"How can they tell me the drug did not prolong my life. I loved the three years I had taking Avastin. I didn't feel like I had cancer. I didn't look like I had cancer. No one would have ever known."
She says other treatments don't compare for her, and chemo takes a toll.
"I live with pain now," said Heppe. "It all wears me out."
Heppe feels the FDA is out of touch with the needs of patients with stage four cancer.
"The thing is, with stage four you aren't concerned with side-effects. I actually didn't have any. That was icing on the cake," she said.
Heartland Cancer Specialist, Dr. Olivia Aranha had this take on Avastin.
"I think Avastin is a good drug," said Dr. Aranha. "I don't want it to be a dead drug. I think it needs to be studied further to find out what specific group of women it could be beneficial in."
Further, Dr. Aranha says Avastin is still approved for treatment of other cancers because studies show the drug certainly contributes in other forms.
"I am just blessed the drug was available to me," said Heppe. "I feel bad for the women in the future who won't have it."
Heppe has an online blog. She says she's heard from numerous women who are upset about losing Avastin.
"They aren't just mad, they are outraged," said Heppe.
Again, Avastin is on the market for other forms of cancer like colon, lung, kidney, and brain cancer. But, most insurance companies won't pick up the $90,000 per year cost for treatment of breast cancer now that the FDA revoked approval.