NICE still say NO to Cancer Patients

Last year the previous Health Secretary, Alan Johnson, promised us greater flexibility from NICE for end of life drugs and yet we have still only been left with one drug, Sutent (Sunitinib).  Our three remaining drugs have since been rejected.  Because of this we cannot be treated sequentially, as in many other countries.  NICE now appears to be on a roll, as they have also rejected Nexavar (Sorafenib), the only option for liver cancer patients.  Also, Avastin (Bevacizumab) has been rejected for bowel cancer patients.  These drugs are available in most other EU countries and our NHS is forecasting yet another massive surplus, this time of £1.476 BILLION!

NICE uses a QALY figure to determine cost which must be no more than  £30,000 pa, a figure that was set in 1999, which they refuse to increase for inflation.  NICE introduced a new end of life QALY at the beginning of this year, which was meant to make it easier for patients to access these treatments.  But this QALY is governed by strict criteria where drugs already licensed for other indications are among those barred from being considered under the system.  This is grossly unfair to patients.

If NICE continues with this tough approach then drug companies will no doubt consider withdrawing some of their new cancer treatments from the NHS assessement process.  Cancer patients in Britain will consequently be denied more effective drugs that are available in other countries.

The sad thing about all this is that kidney cancer patients who cannot tolerate Sutent are already again having to plead with their local PCT for access to a drug such as Afinitor (Everolimus) which has yet to be assessed by NICE.  This drug is considered to be one of the most effective second line treatments after Sutent.

A recent report by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, shows that Britain still has a lot to do to increase cancer survival rates, which are among the worst in the developed world.  This is despite an above average healthcare spend and investment in nurses and doctors.

I am finding it ever more difficult to ascertain just why our cancer care in this country is in such a sorry state when so much of our money has been invested in healthcare.    It seems to me that we have no option but just to keep on campaigning for the best treatment for cancer patients and to ask what they have been doing with all our taxpayers’ money  – we owe it to the next generation!


Posted under Clive Stone, N.I.C.E.

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