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Green light for kidney cancer drug

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Kidney cancer patients across the UK will be offered an expensive life-prolonging drug after guidance backed the use of the drug.

After a long battle for access to sunitinib on the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that all eligible patients in England, Wales and Scotland now be given the drug.

Patients with advanced kidney cancer will now be prescribed sunitinib, marketed as Sutent, as an immediate treatment, and although it is not a cure, research shows its can prolong life by several months and in some cases by more than two years.

The guidance marks a U-turn after NICE ruled last year that the drug was not cost-effective enough. NICE was then accused of condemning kidney cancer patients to an early death.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has also reversed its earlier decision to reject use of the drug following the new recommendation.

The change in direction by both groups came after manufacturer Pfizer came up with a plan to make Sutent more affordable. The company has agreed to a 5% discount, dropping the price to around £24,000 per patient per year.

Pfizer will also pay for the first six-week phase of treatment and the NHS will cover the other costs.

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