September 19, 2008

Cancer Sufferers Unhappy With Answers From Nice

Cancer sufferers in the South West were unhappy with the lack of answers they received at a meeting to discuss the use of life- prolonging drugs yesterday.

Patients suffering with the disease attended a meeting with the National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) in Plymouth to find out why drugs that prolong a person's life are not widely available on the NHS.

Sutent has been rejected for use on the NHS because it is not seen as being cost effective and NICEs believe it only extends a person's life by a couple of months.

John Quance has been taking Sutent for two years.

He said: "If you look on the Internet you will find people who have been on Sutent for three years. I'm getting it but there are people out there who aren't and it's a terrible position for them to be in.

"It has helped to prolong my life so every day I get to see my wife and daughter - that's something I wouldn't have had if not for this treatment."

Many of the questions put before the NICE panel, which included the organisation's chief executive Andrew Dillon, centred around the apparent high cost of Sutent.

Rose Woodward, chairman of Cornwall Cancer Patient Group, has long campaigned for the rights of sufferers of the disease.

She said: "Aside from the appalling psychological damage caused to cancer patients when they are told their lives are not worth saving, can you please explain how a drug which has a wholesale cost of pounds24,032 per annum is then said to cost the NHS pounds71,000?"

Mr Dillon said that NICE had no power to tell pharmaceutical companies at what price they should sell their drugs. He said: "Many drugs are now priced on a global level so pharmaceutical companies can come in with prices at whatever level they want. It's not something I can influence but I do ask companies if there is an opportunity for them to help us get to a point where an effective treatment can be made available."

Debbie Hurst, from St Ives, was also at the meeting. She demanded to know why breast cancer drug Avastin was not widely available.

Mrs Hurst, who was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2004 and has been taking Avastin since February, said: "I am going to die. I am extremely ill but this drug is extending my life and I want to give other people the same chance as me."

She said that like Sutent, Avastin is available at a cheaper price in other countries and NICE should be making sure the UK has it at the same cost.

Mr Dillon said that prices may be lower in other countries because people have less money to pay for the drugs.

Speaking after the meeting, Mrs Woodward said she was appalled that NICE failed to answer questions about drug treatments. She said: "I think we've been given the brush off. I don't think there was an understanding about any of the points we were trying to get across."

(c) 2008 Western Morning News, The Plymouth (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.