Beck's latest evidence for “death panels”: FDA may rescind approval of ineffective drug

Glenn Beck sees death panels everywhere. He was among the first in the conservative media to jump on Sarah Palin's original false claim that an end-of-life planning provision of the House version of health care reform constituted a “death panel,” saying of her claim, “I believe it to be true.” After Palin's falsehood imploded, Beck said that she had “made a point” in “an inflammatory way,” but that the bill would create death panels through rationing. He later linked a task force's recommendation that fewer women younger than 50 receive regular mammograms to the death panel smear.

Today, Beck is claiming that “your first death panel is here” with the Federal Drug Administration's review of the cancer drug Avastin. Last month, a panel of cancer experts recommended that the FDA consider revoking their approval of the drug, and the agency is currently doing so. Without FDA approval, insurers may stop paying for the treatment.

After gleefully mocking people who call those who claim the Obama administration is implementing death panels “conspiracy theorists,” Beck aired a clip of himself a year ago defining death panels as attempts to ration health care to save the government money (which, incidentally, was far different from the original definition offered by Sarah Palin and other conservative media). He then aired a montage of politicians and media figures ridiculing such claims.

Beck then declared that “your first death panel is here,” and read the first paragraph of a Washington Post article on the Avastin issue. He commented: “See, it's not that they'd ever be called death panels, or anything like that. The point has always been with this new system, it's based on money. It's possibly happening now, exactly the way we said it would.”

The punch-line? The Avastin decision has nothing whatsoever to do with “money,” or rationing. It has to do with the fact that Avastin doesn't seem to do much, and has significant side effects.

That's right, the FDA's issue with Avastin isn't that it costs too much for what it does, but that it isn't very effective in the first place. Beck might have known this if he continued reading past the Post article's first paragraph to the part where the Post reported that the “FDA is not supposed to consider costs in its decisions” and that the FDA's advisory committee cited “two new studies that the advisers concluded had not shown that the drug extends life.”

The article also quoted National Cancer Institute senior investigator Wyhdham Wilson, the committee's chair, who said that “The vast majority opinion of the committee was that the drug was not doing very much, and what it was doing was more than offset by the negative... In our best judgment, we did not feel this drug was safe to give relative to its benefits.”

The Post further reported:

The recommendation has been praised by many cancer experts and by advocates for breast cancer patients.

“The FDA should never have approved Avastin for breast cancer to begin with,” said Fran Visco of the National Breast Cancer Coalition. “We don't see evidence of benefit, but we do see evidence of harm.”

Question: Is Beck in favor of keeping ineffective drugs on the market? Or is he just throwing everything he can at the Obama administration in the hope that something sticks? I'll leave that one to the “conspiracy theorists.”