August 8, 2008

NHS Denies ‘Effective’ Cancer Drugs Due to Cost

By Ian Johnston

CAMPAIGNERS EXPRESSED outrage yesterday at a decision to deny four drug treatments to NHS patients with advanced kidney cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) issued draft guidance rejecting the drugs Sutent (sunitinib), Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus). This leaves patients with only one treatment option - interferon.

Professor John Wagstaff, from the South Wales Cancer Institute, said there was "no point" in him accepting referrals for people with advanced kidney cancer as 75 per cent of them "do not gain any real benefit" from interferon.

The guidance rejects the drugs because they are not cost effective. They do not cure, but can extend life by a matter of months. Professor Peter Littlejohns, the clinical and public health director at Nice, said: "Although these treatments are clinically effective, regrettably, the cost to the NHS is such that they are not a cost-effective use of NHS resources."

James Whale, the broadcaster who lost a kidney to cancer in 2000, said: "If final guidance remains ... it will mean an early death sentence for many."


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