NHS refuses pioneering breast cancer drug


New medication is deemed too expensive

A revolutionary new drug called Kadcyla, used to treat very aggressive breast cancer, will not be available in England, as advisory body NICE declares it too expensive.

Kadcyla is said to add an average of six months on to the life of a woman dying from HER2-positive breast cancer – a cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and cannot be surgically removed. With one fifth of breast cancer cases being HER2-positive, the new drug could potentially benefit 1,500 women per year, however the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have rejected the drug based on price.

Makers Roche have set the price at £90,000 per patient for 14 months of treatment, although they have now offered an undisclosed lower price in a bid to gain NICE recommendation. The two organisations have been in discussions about the drug since NICE first refused it back in April.

Kadcyla works by seeking out and destroying cancerous cells, attacking them from within. This unique action means that it is unlikely to cause common cancer related side effects, such as hair loss, which is usually seen with other types of chemotherapy.

No new medication

Kimberley Mawby, 44, who managed to get the drug through a trial at London’s Royal Marsden Hospital, described it as “amazing”, telling BBC News “I can have a great life. I don’t feel ill, the side-effects are so minimal I lead a really normal life. And I know how much it costs but at the end of the day you can’t put a price on your life and that’s what Roche are asking people to do. For all the people out there that need this drug, I really believe they should be able to get it.”

NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said “We are really disappointed that Roche were not able to demonstrate more flexibility. The company is well aware that we could not have recommended Kadcyla at the price it proposed.”

Jennifer Cozzone, head of health economics and pricing at Roche, said “We’re very disappointed with this decision and, frankly, not just for patients who would have had the opportunity to receive Kadcyla with a positive decision. Considering Kadcyla is the eighth medicine in a row that NICE has declined to make available to women with advanced breast cancer in the UK, we don’t believe this is a question of the price of Kadcyla. We believe that this is an issue with how NICE considers medicines in advanced breast cancer.” Dr Jayson Dallas, of Roche, added “NICE’s rejection of Kadcyla demonstrates quite simply that their current system is broken, not fit for purpose and in need of a complete overhaul when it comes to advanced cancer.”

Mia Rosenblatt, head of policy and campaigns at Breast Cancer Campaign, said the news was a “huge blow”. She continued “It is vital that this is not the end of the line for Kadcyla in respect of NICE approval, and we ask NICE and Roche to urgently revisit their negotiations to find a solution. It’s not too late to review the cost of the drug.”

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