'Unprecedented' Study: Breast Cancer Drug Prolongs Life

Perjeta gives women about 16 extra months, study says
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 29, 2014 5:50 PM CDT
Breast-Cancer Drug Gives Women 16 More Months
This undated file photo provided by Roche shows the drug Perjeta.   (AP Photo/Roche, File)

One of the most popular breast-cancer drugs on today's market is giving sufferers a significantly longer life, a new study says—as long as they can afford the $5,900 monthly price tag. In a clinical trial involving 808 women, those who took the drug Perjeta lived almost 16 months more than participants in the control group, the New York Times reports. "We’ve never seen anything like this before," says the study's lead author, Sandra Swain, who announced the findings yesterday in Spain. "It’s really unprecedented to have this survival benefit." Two doctors who played no role in the study lauded the results, with one saying that "usually we see two months of improvement."

Approved by the FDA in 2012, Perjeta is used by half of eligible US women for its ability to block HER2, a protein that allows some breast tumors to grow. The drug is generally taken with Herceptin in the 20% of cases that involve an excess of HER2. Both drugs are made by the Swiss company Roche, and jointly cost about $11,200 per month (Roche says it banked roughly $408 million in Perjeta sales in the first half of 2014 alone). Meanwhile, the Guardian reports that patient groups are criticizing drug companies for their prices, with one saying that "it's not impossible to put a fair price on drugs." Swain, a professor at Georgetown University, has worked as a paid speaker and consultant for Roche, Forbes reports. (More breast cancer stories.)

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