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NICE bowel cancer decision 'a scandal'

NHS cost-effectiveness watchdog NICE has come under fire for deciding that two new targeted therapies for bowel cancer should not be used. The recommendation angered patient groups, since both Avastin and Erbitux are widely available in the United States and much of Europe.

NICE said that the cost of the medicines meant their use was not 'compatible with the best use of NHS resources.' It estimated that the average cost of treating a patient with Avastin was £16,800 while Erbitux would cost £11,700 pounds, based on doses given during clinical studies.

Avastin (marketed in Europe by Switzerland's Roche Holding AG and known generically as bevacizumab) works by starving tumors of blood supply. Erbitux (or cetuximab) is sold in Europe by Germany's Merck KgaA and stops the proliferation of cancer cells. Neither drug provides a cure for bowel cancer, but the treatments have been shown in clinical trials to extend life expectancy by around four to five months in some patients.

Hilary Whittaker, chief executive of the charity Beating Bowel Cancer, said 'the decision by NICE not to make these drugs routinely available on the NHS to appropriate patients is a scandal and we strongly urge NICE to reconsider its decision. We are now the only nation in the EU not to offer cetuximab and bevacizumab to bowel cancer patients in the disease's advanced stages.Why should patients in the UK be worse off than patients in the rest of Europe?

'Beating Bowel Cancer campaigns hard to ensure that patients have access to the best treatments available, regardless of their ability to pay for them, and we feel extremely disappointed that bowel cancer — the second biggest cancer killer - is not being given the attention or funding it deserves.'

MHF president Dr Ian Banks added: 'Bowel cancer is eminently treatable when caught early. Unfortunately men tend to present late to their GP especially with an "embarrassing" condition. Metastatic cancer (where the tumour has spread from the original site) is therefore more likely and treatments which address this condition would be of great value. Obviously the best approach has to be early diagnosis which is why the MHF seeks a full roll-out of the bowel cancer screening programme.'

Bowel cancer kills almost 50 people a day.

Page created on August 22nd, 2006

Page updated on December 1st, 2009