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New cancer drugs may cut hospital trips

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Patients with advanced lung and stomach cancer may require fewer visits to hospital after two new treatments were approved for use on the NHS, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has revealed.

The new treatments are taken in tablet form and not with a standard infusion pump. Draft guidance has been issued by NICE on both drugs.

The NHS can pay a one-off fee for Iressa (gefitinib) under a patient access scheme put forward by pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca. The drug is suitable for a number of patients with lung cancer who have a genetic mutation. The first two months of treatment is free, and then the NHS has the option of paying £12,200 for patients to remain on the drug, irrespective of the length of their treatment.

Dr Carole Longson, health technology evaluation centre director at NICE, said: “Lung cancer is one of the most common cancers in the UK, with around 38,000 people diagnosed every year.

“Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer, accounting for around 80% of all cases,” she said. “NICE has already recommended a number of treatments for this condition and we are pleased to add gefitinib as an option for patients and their clinicians to consider.

“Gefitinib offers an advantage because it is taken in tablet form, can be taken at home, and would allow patients to carry on with normal daily activities.”

In a second piece of draft guidance, NICE approved Xeloda (capecitabine) for advanced gastric (stomach) cancer, which affects around 8,200 people each year in the UK.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Wonderful news. Much research goes on that is not appreciated by the great majority of people until it affects them personally and they need, or someone they know needs treatment only to find that their particular illness cannot be treated. I believe that such research should not be left to charities and drug companies alone. Such research is of benefit to the country as a whole and government has a role to play in the public interest by supporting such research. Recently in America an enormous breakthrough has apparently been made in the treatment of prostate cancer. A drug which specificaly targets the cancer cells themselves and leaves healthy cells alone was tested on two terminaly ill men with dramatic results. This research costs money. we should all be willing to support it financialy. I imagine the only people who will read this article are those in the nursing or medical profession, and only those affected by these cancers will know about the developments. More has to be done publicise the good work that goes on in the field of cancer research.

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