Financial News

  • 8 August 2014, 12:30

Breast Cancer Drug 'Too Expensive' For NHS

A life-extending breast cancer drug has been rejected for routine use by the NHS because it is "too expensive".

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has issued a final draft blaming the high price for making it "impossible to recommend".

The drug, Kadcyla, is known to increase life expectancy by an average of around six months, with minimum side effects.

It treats people with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body.

Kim Mawby, 45, has been trialling the drug for three years after being diagnosed with breast cancer.

She was initially given six months to live but now lives a normal life with her husband and three children.

"I think it costs about 6,000 a month," she said.

"A lot of people are going to say that's too much money but I don't think you can put a price on someone's life.

"When I wake up I do feel incredibly lucky that I am still here, that I am able to just get up and go to work, see the kids off to school.

"I do sit back and think 'wow, if it wasn't for this drug I wouldn't be watching (my son) going to school on his first day'."

Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of Nice, says the cost of the drug works out at 90,000 per patient, per year.

"This drug is so expensive that it's way beyond even that additional flexibility that we can offer," he said.

"I can't negotiate the price with the manufacturer. It's entirely in Roche's hands, the manufacturer's hands, now. They know what they need to do."

However, Roche says the price reflects the value it provides to patients.

Jennifer Cozzone, from Roche, told Sky News that Nice was the first organisation to reject the drug, which she said demonstrated the system in the UK was broken.

"Every other country, including countries nearby like Norway or Sweden or Switzerland, who have very similar economies to ours, have considered Kadcyla to be good value for money and made it available routinely at very similar prices to what we're talking about here," she said.

Nice says other countries have different arrangements for funding pharmaceuticals.

Kadcyla is available to some patients in the UK through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but Nice says that is not a "long-term mechanism".

A Department of Health spokesperson said: "Nice is an independent expert body that is responsible for evaluating what drugs should be available from the NHS, taking into account cost, demand and effectiveness.

"Kadcyla will still be available to patients through the Cancer Drugs Fund if their doctor thinks it is right for them and we remain open to discussions with the manufacturer about the price of Kadcyla to the NHS."

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