Charity acts in breast cancer treatment row

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AN urgent petition has been launched by a charity against a controversial draft decision which could block a pioneering breast cancer treatment from being routinely available on the NHS.

Breast Cancer Now (BCN) has condemned a preliminary recommendation from the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) to reject Kadcyla as a “disastrous decision” which is “a huge setback” for the treatment of advanced breast cancer.

Without any discount, Kadcyla costs £90,831 per patient, based on a three-weekly dose and an average length of treatment of 14.5 months, but Nice has said the cost is “too high”.

A Nice committee looked at new data showing people taking Kadcyla - also known as trastuzumab emtansine - could live up to nine months longer than those taking an alternative drug called lapatinib plus capecitabine.

Manufacturer Roche has offered a discount but BCN is hoping for a deeper price cut and for Nice to use a different comparator drug to evaluate Kadcyla’s cost-effectiveness.

BCN chief executive Baroness Delyth Morgan accused Nice and Roche of failures which were leaving “secondary breast cancer patients abandoned”.

In a statement directed at Nice chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon and Roche Products general manager Richard Erwin, she said: “Responsibility lies on both sides, and such reckless brinkmanship is unfortunately about to rip away one of the best breast cancer drugs in years from patients in desperate need of a lifeline.

“We welcome that Roche have offered a substantial discount, but they must now lower their price even further. However, Nice’s decision to use a comparator drug to calculate the cost-effectiveness of Kadcyla that is not even available to patients is wholly inappropriate and must be reconsidered.

“We believe that had an appropriate comparator drug been selected, the discounted price may have seen Kadcyla fall within the cost-effectiveness threshold. This outcome also speaks volumes about a drug appraisal system that is just not working for metastatic breast cancer patients.”

BCN, which fears the drug will not be available unless the decision is reversed, is calling on people to visit to urge Nice and Roche to strike a deal to keep Kadcyla available in England.

Kadcyla is currently being funded through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). Nice is publishing its draft guidance, including its preliminary recommendation on Kadcyla today opening a consultation until January 19. The Nice committee will meet again in February.