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Skin cancer drug rejection criticised

A skin cancer patient support group has condemned a decision to deny sufferers a “potentially life extending” new drug.

Factor 50 called for the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) to reconsider its preliminary decision not to recommend the drug Vemurafenib.

The group said that the drug, also known as Zelboraf, was proven to prolong the lives of patients with advanced metastatic melanoma.

Chief executive officer Gill Nuttall said the decision was a “truly devastating blow” to patients, adding: “Standard treatments that have been available since the 1970s are ineffective and to deny this drug to patients, is tantamount to passing them a death sentence.

“I am astonished and deeply worried that Nice has not given approval to yet another drug which will significantly alter the lives of melanoma patients.”

Nice issued draft guidance not to recommend the drug, which costs about £1,750 a week, saying the long-term benefits of it were difficult to quantify because of the limitations of available evidence.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “We need to be sure that new treatments provide sufficient benefits to patients to justify the significant cost the NHS is being asked to pay.

“Vemurafenib is an expensive drug and its long-term benefits are difficult to quantify.”

Manufacturers Roche said they were extremely disappointed with the decision.

Roche UK managing director John Melville said: “Zelboraf ticks all the boxes when considering the types of medicines that value-based pricing aims to encourage pharmaceutical companies to develop, and in addition we strongly believe it is cost effective.

“NICE themselves acknowledge that Zelboraf is innovative and addresses an unmet need.”

NICE has opened a public consultation on its guidance.

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