THE decision to turn down a “wonder” breast cancer drug, which can extend life by nearly six months, because of its cost has been questioned by campaigners and survivors alike in Swindon.
In its draft guidance The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said Kadcyla, medication priced at £90,000 a patient, is not effective enough to justify the expense.
It is the eighth consecutive drug for advanced breast cancer to be blocked by the NHS rationing body NICE.
While the drug gave patients an average of 5.8 extra months of life, it was six times more expensive than drugs normally approved for use on the NHS.
Although not a cure, Kadcyla, a drug produced by Roche, had allowed unprecedented advances in the treatment of HER 2-positive secondary breast cancer.
Trialling medication too costly to be sustainable was condemned by breast cancer survivor Tracey Kidman-Pepper, who also questioned the drug’s pricing.
“You would be absolutely devastated if you knew something could prolong your life was going to be taken away,” said the 40-year-old, from Marlborough Road.
“I just don’t understand how this drug can cost that much. What are the margins on it? It’s ludicrous.
“There is something fundamentally wrong about introducing drugs you know nobody can afford. It should not be happening in the UK.
“And I don’t understand the logic in any of this. They knew this was going to cost £90,000 and didn’t do the maths. More questions should be asked about why this has happened.”
Kadcyla was funded through the Cancer Drugs Fund set up by the Government.
NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said the body had hoped Roche would lower the cost of the drug in the long term.
“We had hoped that Roche would have recognised the challenge the NHS faces in managing the adoption of expensive new treatments by reducing the cost of Kadcyla to the NHS,” he said. “We apply as much flexibility as we can in approving new treatments, but the reality is that given its price and what it offers to patients, it will displace more health benefit which the NHS could achieve in other ways, than it will offer to patients with breast cancer.”
Although keen to ensure that not all NHS funds are allocated to a minority of cancer patients, Beryl Bowles, the founder of support group Affected by Cancer in Swindon, said pulling the drug was far worse than not introducing it in the first place.
“It’s a tremendous amount of money to put into one person and spending that much would affect thousands of others with different types of cancer,” she said.
“It would have been better if they had just decided at an early stage that it was too expensive. “They must have known it was going to be. “It’s raising and dashing hopes. Patients have got no hope of getting it now.
“It’s upsetting and depressing for the ladies it might have helped.”