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'Disappointment' over NICE breast cancer drug decision

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A charity has expressed its “disappointment” over a decision not to provide a life-extending breast cancer drug on the NHS.

Breast Cancer Campaign said that it hopes that the draft decision from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) will be reversed before officials make a final determination on pertuzumab as a treatment for an advanced form of the disease.

The drug, also known as Perjeta, was widely welcomed when it was first introduced by manufacturers Roche.

The drug targets the HER-2 gene found in 20% of breast cancer patients. Trials have found that when used alongside the drug Herceptin and chemotherapy, patients live an average of six months longer without their cancer getting worse, compared with those just on Herceptin and chemotherapy.

At present, patients can access the drug through the Cancer Drugs Fund but it is not routinely available through the health service.

But NICE said that it cannot recommend it for widespread use because “clinical trial data could not predict how long the drug might extend people’s lives for, yet it costs much more than current NHS treatments”, a spokeswoman said.

The organisation has now launched a consultation to hear the views of charities, patient groups and drug manufacturers.

NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: “The appraisal committee couldn’t be sure of the benefits of pertuzumab. The main clinical trial did not reflect current medical practice in the UK and despite the research data suggesting the treatment could help delay the growth and spread of the disease, the evidence was not robust enough to confirm for how long pertuzumab may actually extend people’s lives.

“The committee also noted that even the manufacturer estimated that the treatment would not be considered cost-effective for the NHS. We have now launched a consultation to gather comments from interested parties to develop the guidance further.”

Mia Rosenblatt, head of policy and campaigns at Breast Cancer Campaign, said: “It’s disappointing that a drug that has shown real benefit to women with advanced HER-2 positive breast cancer has not received NICE approval.

“However this is an interim decision and we hope that appropriate evidence to show its benefit can be provided and an agreement on cost made so that the NHS see this as a cost-effective treatment that could extend lives.”


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