August 17, 2008

Specialist Slams Drug Ruling

A Leading Welsh cancer specialist has condemned plans to prevent patients with advanced kidney cancer from getting specialised drug treatments.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has issued draft guidance rejecting the use of Sutent, Avastin, Nexavar and Torisel on cost grounds, leaving only interferon available to clinicians.

John Wagstaff, honorary consultant in medical oncology at the South Wales Cancer Institute in Swansea and director of the Wales Cancer Trials Network, slammed the decision and said it would leave Britain with the worst survival rates for the disease in Europe.

And he described the Nice guidelines as a "devastating blow" to the kidney cancer community.

"If this draft guidance is not overturned, there will be no point in accepting referrals of patients with metastatic renal cell cancer, because three- quarters of patients do not gain any real benefit from interferon, leaving only the palliative care option," he said.

"This decision means that the UK will have the poorest survival figures for metastatic renal cell cancer in Europe."

The draft guidance, which is subject to appeal, says the drugs are not cost-effective.

The medicines do not cure the cancer but extend life by months.

Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at Nice, said: "Although these treatments are clinically effective, regrettably, the cost to the NHS means they aren't a cost- effective use of resources."

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