December 12, 2008

Kidney treatment may by denied due to cost

A British oncologist says he is dismayed that kidney cancer patients may be denied four new treatments due to cost.

Dr. Tim Eisen of the University of Cambridge reports in BJU International that the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has provisionally decided sunitinib, sorafenib, temsirolimus and interferon plus bevacizumab are too costly.

While none of these new drugs cure the condition, they sometimes can extend life, Eisen said. For instance, some patients taking sunitinib get an extra year.

The variability of the natural history of kidney cell carcinoma makes it possible a minority of patients may benefit very significantly, Eisen says, but no provision is made for the importance of gaining even a few months of extra life for patients, despite the fact that these benefits are deemed to be extremely important by all patient groups.

Eisen and colleagues had hoped that NICE would approve at least one of these drugs, which they say represent a major breakthrough.

Our hopes were dashed when NICE released its consultation document, Eisen said. It said that although the four drugs they looked at were clinically effective, they were not cost-effective.