Controversy as cancer drug deemed “too expensive” for NHS

A drug which prolongs the life of liver cancer patients has been deemed “too expensive” by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence.

A drug that can potentially prolong the lives of patients with advanced liver cancer will not be available to patients on the NHS as the costs are “simply too high”.

NICE, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence, has deemed the £3,000-a-month cost of the drug, Nexavar, could not be borne by the NHS in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. There are as many as 3,000 people diagnosed with liver cancer each year with the prognosis being very poor – only 20 per cent of patients are alive one year after diagnosis, dropping to just 5 per cent after five years.

The decision has, however, outraged both campaigners and medical experts. Campaigner Kate Spall, speaking to Radio 4, spoke of how her 58 year old mother had four extra precious months of life and how it had given her “closure”.

Kate had to fight authorities to start treatment for her mother.

Dr Harpreet Wasan, a Medical Oncologist at Hammersmith Hospital, Imperial College, London, told Medical News Today in September that such a decision would leave doctors with nothing other than supportive and palliative care for such patients. He went on to say that it was akin to:

“Denying them the life-preserving benefits of modern treatments.”

The drug had already been rejected in Scotland with regulatory authorities arguing that the cost to benefit ratio did not warrant its acceptance – this despite evidence showing the drug can potentially prolong survival by up to six months.

The problem for British patients is that the drug is used routinely in other countries and again opens the debate as to how resources are prioritised within the NHS.

Like this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.

8 Responses to “Controversy as cancer drug deemed “too expensive” for NHS”

  1. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: Controversy as cancer drug deemed “too expensive” for NHS: <— Unjustifiable

  2. gsdog7

    RT @leftfootfwd: Controversy as cancer drug deemed “too expensive” for NHS:

  3. Louis Henry

    £3000 a month I believe, not £300. Bayer AG have to charge this much to make a profit – 2.183 billion euros in 2008. Thank goodness for NICE

  4. Asif

    Well done for spotting the deliberate mistake! Your’e quite right it is 3000 pounds a month

  5. Richard Blogger

    Cameron’s been quiet about this, don’t you think?

    I point this out because the Tory health policy make an issue about “value-based pricing” where they say they will tell drug companies how much they should be paid for it. If you can do that, then it means that no drug is too expensive for the NHS, right?

    Now, if you (as Cameron) passionately believed that such a policy would work, wouldn’t you use Nexavar as an example of how the policy works better than the status quo? Of course Cameron is quiet, because he knows that his policy will not work with Nexavar (not fit for purpose, like most of their health policy).

  6. joe fd

    So do you have a criticism of nice’s methodology here, or the principle of evidence-based priority setting itself? Surprising position for a socialist doctor. Surely palliative care and support is what is needed for fair and sustainable universal healthcare? Joe.

  7. Sunil

    Controversy as cancer drug deemed “too expensive” for NHS | Left …

  8. asif

    Joe fd
    As a doctor what I am primarily concerned about is the best for patients. In a disease where prognosis is so poor, and there is virtually no meanignful treatment, Nexavar has been proven to be ‘effective’ in prolonging life even if that is for 6 months or so. For me that in itself is sufficient improvement to warrant offering the drug. I would like to see more pressure on drug companies to curb their profits- 2 billion euros for bayer AG in 08-to make these drugs more affordable.

Leave a Reply