Two life-extending drugs used to treat the most dangerous form of skin cancer have been given the go-ahead for use on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued final guidance recommending ipilimumab and vemurafenib to treat advanced malignant melanoma.
The prognosis for advanced melanoma is very poor, and those who are diagnosed often have just months to live.
But under the guidance, patients in England and Wales will be able to access the “breakthrough” treatments.
Professor Carole Longson, director of the health technology evaluation centre at NICE said: “Advanced melanoma can significantly affect patients’ quality of life and without effective new therapies, the prognosis for advanced disease is very poor.
“For many years, the treatments available for this condition have been very limited and in some cases restricted to palliative care.
“Vemurafenib and ipilimumab are breakthrough treatments that can potentially significantly improve the prognosis for some people with malignant melanoma.
“We are very pleased that the manufacturers have worked with us so that we are now able to recommend both treatments.”
In initial guidance, NICE did not recommend use of the treatments.
But the regulator has since received data about the cost effectiveness of the drugs and in its final guidance it has recommended the treatments on the basis that the manufacturers provide them with a discount.
Ipilimumab, also known as yervoy made by manufacturer Bristol-Myers Squibb, has been given the go-ahead for patients who have already undergone chemotherapy.
Vemurafenib, which is known as zelboraf and made by drug company Roche, has been recommended for patients who have metastatic melanoma.