Regulatory withdrawal of medicines marketed with uncertain benefits: the bevacizumab case study

Agnes Vitry, Tuan Nguyen, Vikki Entwistle, Elizabeth Roughead

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34 Citations (Scopus)
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Background: Withdrawal of conditional regulatory approval or subsidization of new medicines when subsequent evidence does not confirm early trial results may not be well understood or accepted by the public. We present a case study of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s decision to withdraw the indication of bevacizumab for the treatment of advanced breast cancer and include an analysis of the reactions of stakeholders with a view to identifying opportunities for improving risk management for new medicines with conditional approval or funding.
Methods: We drew on a range of information sources, including FDA documents, medical journals and media reports, to describe the evidentiary basis of the FDA decisions. We analysed the reactions and perspectives of the stakeholders.
Results: In 2008 bevacizumab was granted conditional approval for treatment of advanced breast cancer by the FDA pending submission of supplementary satisfactory evidence. In 2011 the FDA decision to withdraw the indication was met with a hostile reaction from many clinicians and cancer survivors. There were different interpretations of the therapeutic value of bevacizumab with strong beliefs among cancer survivors that the medicine was effective and potential harm was manageable. High expectations of the public may have been encouraged by overly positive media reports and limited understanding by the public of the complexity of the scientific evaluation of new medicines and of the regulatory processes.
Conclusions: Improving understanding and acceptance of approval or coverage schemes conditional to evidence development may require the development of risk management plans by regulatory and funding institutions. They may include a range of strategies such as requirements for formal patient acknowledgment of the conditional availability of the medicine, ‘black-triangle’ equivalent labels that identify full approval is based on pending evidence, and ongoing communication with the media, public and health professionals.
Original languageEnglish
Article number25
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Pharmaceutical Policy and Practice
Early online date19 Oct 2015
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2015

Bibliographical note

Professor Elizabeth Roughead is funded by a Future Fellowship from the
Australian Research Council. The views expressed are those of the authors,
the sponsor had no role in the preparation of the manuscript.


  • pharmaceutical policy
  • managed entry agreement
  • medicine subsidization
  • coverage with evidence development


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