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NHS approval for life-extending breast cancer drug

WebMD UK Health News
Medically Reviewed by Dr Farah Ahmed
woman physician

Editor's note 20th June 2017 -- The Welsh Government has announced it has received the same deal from the manufactruer as NHS England and will be making the drug routinely. avaiable.

15th June 2017 – A decision to approve a life-extending breast cancer drug for routine NHS use in England and Wales is being seen as a victory for a hard-fought campaign by patients.

Last December, the health regulator announced it had decided against recommending trastuzumab emtansine in England and Wales for women with advanced breast cancer because its cost outweighed the benefits.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) appealed to Roche, which manufactures the drug under its brand name Kadcyla, to offer a discount to the NHS.

Confidential price deal

Today, NICE has announced it will recommend the drug for routine funding after striking a price deal for England.

It will mean that around 1,200 people with HER2-positive breast cancer will be eligible to receive it.

The Welsh Government says the drug will be available in Wales as soon as the manufacturer offers the NHS in Wales an equivalent pricing package.

Scotland's NHS drug watchdog approved its routine use in April this year.

The charity Breast Cancer Now called today's decision "exceptionally good news". Breast Cancer Care described NICE's U-turn as "monumental".

One breast cancer patient in England tells us she is "thrilled" by the announcement because the drug "gives women with secondary breast cancer many extra months, and even years, of life with their families and friends".

The £91,614 list price for trastuzumab emtansine has proved a persistent barrier to NHS approval. It is licensed to treat HER2-positive breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body, cannot be surgically removed and has stopped responding to initial treatment. It is only licenced for use after patients have been given trastuzumab (Herceptin) and a type of chemotherapy drug called a taxane.

The drug has so far only been available to patients in England under the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Patient campaign

NICE says it has been able to re-evaluate the cost effectiveness of trastuzumab emtansine following the price deal with Roche, details of which are confidential.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, acknowledged the pressure from 115,000 people who had signed a Breast Cancer Now petition urging NICE to overturn its draft recommendation.

Barring any appeals against the NICE guidelines, the drug will move out of the Cancer Drugs Fund into routine NHS funding later this summer.

'Flexible' bargaining

Richard Erwin, general manager of Roche, comments in a statement: "We are delighted that it is now sustainably funded in England as well as in Scotland, and that it’s finally available on the NHS for the first time in Wales and Northern Ireland.

He adds: "This is a positive example of how solutions can be reached when all parties show flexibility."

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