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NICE recommends NHS use of new melanoma drugs

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Advanced melanoma sufferers should be given two life-prolonging drugs by the NHS, according to draft guidance from health watchdog NICE.

The drugs, ipilimumab and vemurafenib, are used to treat patients with advanced malignant melanoma, which is classed as the most dangerous of skin cancers.

Those diagnosed with the disease often have just months to live, but NICE is proposing use of the life-extending treatment on the NHS in England and Wales.

The director of NICE’s Health Technology Evaluation Centre, Professor Carole Longson, said new therapies such as these are vital to improve the quality of life of patients, as their prognosis is often very poor.

NICE had originally decided not to recommend use of the two drugs, but has decided to reverse that decision due to their cost-effectiveness, as long as they are discounted by manufacturers Roche and Bristol-Myers Squibb.

Roche’s vemurafenib is used to treat metastatic melanoma. It is also known as zelboraf. Ipilimumab is recommended for people suffering from malignant melanoma following chemotherapy.

Use of the drugs is classed as a “great stride forward” by the chief executive of the London-based Institute of Cancer Research, Professor Alan Ashworth.

“It is a brilliant example of what new-generation targeted cancer therapies can achieve,” he said.

Decisions will be made locally by NHS groups on the use of the two drugs until NICE issues its final guidance.

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