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NICE rejects Avastin for treating advanced bowel cancer

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The cancer dug Avastin will not be made available to people with advanced bowel cancer in the UK, NICE has announced.

The drug, which costs nearly £21,000 per patient, helps those whose disease has spread to other organs. It typically adds six weeks to a patient’s life when combined with the capecitabine and oxaliplatin chemotherapy drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) cited the huge cost of Avastin (bevacizumab), which has been shown to give patients an average of 21.3 months of life, compared with the 19.9 months with just chemotherapy treatment.

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon said: “Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a very expensive drug so patients and NHS should expect substantial benefits from using it. The evidence we have suggests that patients receiving bevacizumab and chemotherapy for this indication may survive, on average, for six weeks longer than patients receiving chemotherapy and placebo.

“This means half of those patients who receive any benefit will receive less than six extra weeks of life.”

Manufacturer Roche initially proposed a patient access scheme under which the drug costs the NHS £20,800 per patient for one year and would be free after 12 months. The cost of oxaliplatin, a chemotherapy drug, would also be reimbursed.

A new proposal included all these elements, plus an additional upfront payment to the NHS for each person.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • The problem with our health system is that it is ultra-conservative and rigid in its fundamental system of operation. In this respect our regulators have fixed mindsets and where traditional curative medicines that have been used in China for over 2,000 years are not allowed into our ill-informed and the uncompromising health system. We are aware that regulators have to be there to safeguard our health but when these traditional plant cures have been tried and tested over 20 centuries there is no chance whatsoever that fatalities will be the outcome. Otherwise the Chinese would have stopped years ago in taking them.

    One of the other reasons why these curative medicines are not used is due to the very powerful pharmaceutical lobby groups who spend hundreds of millions each year brainwashing our politicians into believing that their so-called drug cures are the best. Common sense dictates that they are not, for modern drugs have only really been in existence for a mere 150 years at the most. Compare that with 2,000 years + of trial and error (eliminating the ones that cure and the ones that kill) with traditional medicines. But of course we know that there are billions in drug sales and where this blurs the picture completely. Indeed, how many modern drugs have been allowed to be prescribed to find after say three years down the road, that there are terrible side effects that are far worse than the problem that they were intended to solve.

    A case in point is that five years ago the Vietnamese offered the then Labour Government (through the Home Office) a curative treatment for hard drug addiction that had cured over 20,000 hard drug addicts. This treatment was a traditional medicine, humane in its application (did not harm the patient), had no ‘cold turkey’ and was composed of 13 plant extracts - not an addictive treatment relative to modern drug such as Methadone. This traditional medicine is also very cheap, a fraction of the costs of methadone et al and is now produced in western standard manufacturing facilities for the Vietnamese people.
    The Labour government through the Home Office refused even to receive a cabinet minister of the Vietnamese Government on an unofficial visit – the Vietnamese were snubbed.
    You tell me what they had to loose (indeed a great deal to benefit by with all the crime, prison costs and NHS costs), but they refused. The only answer why they did this in my mind was that the government had been infiltrated by the drugs lobby group who would loose out on methadone sales et al.

    Another is in the area of Avian Human-to-Human killer pandemics where the strategy that stopped the outbreak in 1997 in Hong Kong that would have literally killed millions, has never been adopted. The reason, there are no drugs necessary to stop the killer virus (if it ever could according to historical data) as the work is done at source - i.e. no money in field work for the drug companies. The only big problem with this government adopted strategy pushed by the large pharmaceuticals, is that eventually according to Margaret Chan (D-G of the WHO) some day a global human-to-human pandemic such as the Spanish Flu that killed up to 100 million, will return. The other unfortunate fact is that based on last year’s vaccine response, most of us would be well dead by the time the drug companies had determined a vaccine, mass manufactured it and distributed it worldwide (another logistics nightmare in itself when we have nearly 7 billion humans).
    That strategy that worked in Hong Kong and was based on the premise of to never let it happen in the first place (the preventative strategy and not the so-called curative drug reactive strategy - let it happen and then we may be able to cure it) is, http://avian-influenza.cirad.fr/content/download/1931/11789/file/Kennedy-F-Shortridge.pdf

    Therefore these are some of the major issues in health that the UK has to address for its own good and for the people of Britain. That does not belittle the problem outlined in this article but we really have to get our priorities right. Successive government don’t seem to do so unfortunately to date.

    Dr David Hill
    Executive Director
    World Innovation Foundation Charity
    Bern, Switzerland

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