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Patients hit by cancer drug ruling

PUBLISHED: 09:13 27 August 2009 | UPDATED: 11:42 06 July 2010

PATIENTS with kidney cancer will be denied life-prolonging drugs because they are too expensive, health experts ruled yesterday.

The decision has caused anger and disappointment because it means thousands of people will not be given a chance to take four drugs which could help them live longer.

PATIENTS with kidney cancer will be denied life-prolonging drugs because they are too expensive, health experts ruled yesterday.

The decision has caused anger and disappointment because it means thousands of people will not be given a chance to take four drugs which could help them live longer.

The National Institute of Clinical Excellence (Nice), the health watchdog, rejected appeals over the use of bevacizumab (Avastin), sorafenib (Nexavar) and temsirolimus (Torisel) as first treatment options for advanced kidney cancer or cancer that has spread around the body.

Nice also turned down the use of sorafenib and sunitinib (Sutent) as secondary treatment options for people with either form of the disease.

Alan Martin, 54, from Lowestoft, spent years campaigning for Sutent to be made available on the NHS after he got kidney cancer.

The father of two said: “Once again this is a huge setback for people who need drugs for kidney cancer. Once again the efforts of campaigners have been thwarted and for some people this leaves them in a terrible situation.

“It is very disappointing.”

Every year 7,000 people are diagnosed with kidney or renal cancer and in Norfolk there are about 200 requests for funding for cancer drugs each year.

Last month health bosses in Norfolk defended their policies on handing out cancer drugs to patients in Norfolk following criticism that people were not getting the life-saving medication they were entitled to.

New rules on whether people get new, and sometimes the most expensive, drugs have recently been outlined by NHS Norfolk and NHS Great Yarmouth and Waveney.

Grandfather Jackie Knight, from Hellesdon, had a rare liver cancer and tried to overturn a decision by NHS Norfolk to refuse him Sorafenib.

The 65-year-old was diagnosed with metastatic hepatocellular carcinoma and was told by a consultant the most effective treatment would be Sorafenib but the drug was turned down as it was not deemed cost effective.

His wife Jacqueline Knight said: “I feel very sorry for the people who need these drugs. It is very disappointing when you think something might help but you are refused it.”

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at Nice, said: “We are very aware that renal cancer is a devastating disease for the individual and their family.

“We recommended the use of sunitinib for first line renal cancer in March 2009, so one of these new treatments is now available.

“The evidence to support the use of the other first and second line treatments isn't strong enough to justify using NHS funds, which could be used for other cancer treatment programmes or in other treatment areas.”

Nice said the cost of Avastin was £5,982 per patient for the first six-week cycle and £6,117 for subsequent six-week cycles.

This amounts to around £53,000 per patient per year.

The price of Nexavar is £2,980.47 for 112 tablets while Sutent is £3,363.00 for 30 capsules.

Torisel is listed at £620 per vial.

Nice said these prices included rebates agreed by firms with the Department of Health.


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