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Breast cancer drug rejected by NHS over high cost

A PIONEERING drug to treat women in the advance stages of breast cancer has been rejected in the NHS because of its high cost.

The Herceptin-style treatment, which could provide nearly six months of extra life to women affected by the disease, would cost up to £90,000 per patient - far more than any comparable course of action.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has blamed manufacturers Roche for the high cost of Kadcyla (generic name trastuzumab emtansine), but their decision has been criticised by a number of breast cancer charities who say purchasing the drug is vital.

At present, Kadcyla is paid for through the Cancer Drugs Fund set up by the government so women in the advanced stages of breast cancer can receive it immediately. Though it is not a cure for the disease, Kadcyla is believed to extend life expectancy by up to six months, but Nice says the drug does not work well enough to justify the price tag.

Nice's chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon told The Guardian: "We had hoped that Roche would have recognised the challenge the NHS faces in managing the adoption of expensive new treatments by reducing the cost of Kadcyla to the NHS."

"This drug is already being funded through the special Cancer Drugs Fund. Our job is to recommend whether it should transfer into the NHS budget. We are very aware of the importance that people place on life-extending cancer drugs and a decision not to recommend a cancer treatment for routine NHS funding is never taken lightly.

Professor Paul Ellis, a consultant oncologist at King's College in London, who worked on the drug trials, said in a statement issued by Roche the drug "represents a significant advance in HER2-positive breast cancer, so for Nice to issue negative preliminary guidance is a huge blow.

"The drug tackles the disease in a different way to any other breast cancer medicine and provides women with valuable extra time with their families and loved ones – time that you cannot put a price on. Not only this, Kadcyla is also much better tolerated by women than current standard treatment options, causing much less in the way of traditional chemotherapy associated side effects. As such, the quality of life of women taking Kadcyla is significantly improved.The good news is that patients in England will still be able to access this treatment through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but we are keen to find a more permanent way to effectively assess the value of such drugs to ensure those who need them most can benefit from them."

Jayson Dallas, general manager of Roche Products Limited, said the company was "extremely disappointed that Nice has failed to safeguard the interests of patients with this advanced stage of aggressive disease".

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