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No NHS availability for cancer drugs

A drug which can delay the growth of advanced ovarian cancer should not be widely available on the NHS, NICE has said

Campaigners said they are “extremely disappointed” after the healthcare regulator did not recommend bevacizumab, marketed as Avastin, in draft guidance.

The charity Target Ovarian Cancer said that the drug, which starves tumours of blood, offered a “rare glimmer of hope” for women with the disease.

A spokeswoman said that the drug is the first new treatment which shows any promise in 20 years.

Clinical trials have shown the drug can delay progression of the cancer for several months.

Ovarian cancer is known as the “silent killer” because often it is not discovered until an advanced and deadly stage.

Each year almost 7,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with the disease and more than 4,300 die from it.

Bevacizumab is already an approved treatment for a number of different cancers including bowel, breast and kidney cancer. It works by preventing the growth of new blood vessels that feed tumours.

But NICE said the data submitted by manufacturer Roche was not suitable to properly assess the clinical effectiveness of the drug.

A spokeswoman also said that the treatment, which could cost £2,500 a month per patient, is not “cost effective” when compared to existing treatments.

NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: “Although it was acknowledged that bevacizumab, when used in combination with paclitaxel and carboplatin, appears to provide benefit to some patients by delaying the spread of their cancer, it was unclear whether this translated into an overall survival benefit.

“There was no evidence to show that the clinical benefit of the treatment justifies its cost, when compared to existing treatments - an important factor to consider, especially as the NHS has finite resources.”

Frances Reid, director of public affairs and communications at Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “Avastin is a rare glimmer of hope for women with advanced ovarian cancer, so we are extremely disappointed that women are likely to continue to have limited access to it.

“Having to make applications for a drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund adds time and stress for women, at an already hugely challenging period for them.

“Target Ovarian Cancer believes that barriers to approval can be removed, and is ready to work with the pharmaceutical company and Nice to achieve a positive outcome for women with ovarian cancer, which is surely an aim they share.”

The final guidance on the drug is to be published next year.

Readers' comments (5)

  • an important factor to consider, especially as the NHS has finite resources.” NB this statement and consider the considerable amount of money middle management and above waste in other areas. I refer specifically to the monies spent to silence whistleblowers who are courageous and selfless enough to expose mangers who implement unsafe policies which put patients at serious risk of harm. I know of one case whereby a nurse has been kept off work and paid full wages for nearly 2 years because they blew the whistle. Vexatious and malicious allegations which have proven unfounded were brought against them. The cost to the NHS has been considerable in this one case alone as it has required cover and overtime payments to GP's during this time. Further it is impossible to put a price on the stress and suffering this person has endured. How many other examples of management wasting money like this are there across the NHS which are kept hidden from the public domain. It is disgusting when we then are expected to swallow stories like this one above depriving a cancer sufferer a drug which could give them a precious few more months with their family. Please lets get real about what is really happening for if we had a more open and honest management in NHS trusts and they were appropriately qualified to do their job possessing the required skills then maybe the patient really would be at the centre of what they do rather than as it is now the organisation at the centre and covering up all their wrongdoings.

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  • I couldn't agree more c. every last syllable that you say. You've pretty well said it all. May I congratulate you on the cogency and impact of your contribution.

    My only comment is a peripheral one: I'm still uneasy, as I've said before, about anonymous contributions; we live in a society where free speech is regarded as a precious commodity zealously guarded.

    I'm (only) a second year student (although I've been around an awfully long time!!) but I feel secure in my belief that putting my name to what I believe needs to be said will not lead to retribution from those who, for one reason or another, would far rather that I didn't say certain things.

    Or am I being grossly naïf and am risking my head being shot off when I raise it above the parapet?

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  • David Francis Seelig Thank you for your reply I have to remain anon. at present I have no choice. Please be aware that to raise your head above the parapet is extremely naive in todays NHS particularly. I and others have done so at our cost. Please take my advice and always put yourself first be selfish and think very carefully before daring to speak out unfortunately you do not have the power to fight the culture which is corrupt. I have 35 years of experience in the NHS and have learned this lesson to my personal cost, I urge you not to make the same mistake because your career will end before it has begun.

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  • Oh but all will be well if we follow our chief nurses 6 "C", ha ha-what a joke.

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  • I think the interesting aspect is the line - "NICE said the data submitted by manufacturer Roche was not suitable to properly assess the clinical effectiveness of the drug."
    Before we get upset with NICE for not being able to make decisions which should be based on clear clinical evidence we need to ask Roche why it isn't providing good enough evidence, and maybe before we bash NICE for looking at the cost effectiveness we need to ask Roche to detail it's costing of the drug. NICE has a remit to protect patients and using the best evidence advise on best practice - Roche had a remit to give share holders best profit.

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