Breast cancer survivor blasts decision to reject life-saving drug

Marie Henderson has successfully survived breast cancer and will be featured as a case study in an NHS supplement.
Marie Henderson has successfully survived breast cancer and will be featured as a case study in an NHS supplement.
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A BREAST cancer survivor today blasted the decision to deny the NHS the chance to use a life-prolonging drug as “totally ridiculous”.

Kadcyla, which was trialled at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital, has been rejected for use in the health service by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice).

The drug is used to treat patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, meaning they can extend the lives of sufferers by about six months.

Draft guidance from Nice however revealed that the drug would cost around £90,000 per patient at its full price, making it too expensive to recommend for widespread use.

Houghton woman Marie Henderson, 73, was diagnosed with breast cancer almost 15 years ago, and managed to beat the illness after having a mastectomy.

She said it was disappointing that the treatment is not being offered when patients suffering from what she considers self-inflicted problems, such as obesity, are given free bariatric surgery.

“When you see people being offered breast enhancements and you look at in particular Sunderland Royal Hospital’s spending on obesity with its weight loss ward, they are self-inflicted, whereas breast cancer isn’t.

“Of course you need to look at the cost, and this drug is very expensive.

“But it’s very, very sad that they don’t have the money for this drug.

“On the other hand, you accept that hospitals do have to prioritise where they spend their money.

“I just think in a lot of cases they prioritise the wrong things and it seems totally ridiculous.”

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK, with about 50,000 women and 400 men diagnosed with the condition each year. Nice bosses say they have been left “very disappointed” that Roche, the manufacturers of the drug, have not been able to offer the treatment at a price which would make it available for routine use on the NHS. Roche is to appeal Nice’s decision.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said: “Although Roche proposed a discount to the full list price of Kadcyla, it made little difference to its value for money, leaving it well above the top of our specially extended range of cost effectiveness cancer drugs.”

Dr Jayson Dallas, general manager of Roche Products Limited, said: “Despite Roche offering a significant discount, we are once again disappointed that Nice has not shown any flexibility on access to Kadcyla.

“Refusing patients access to this drug is an incredible injustice and tantamount to turning the clock back in cancer research and development.

“We plan to appeal this decision.”