NICE may not approve cancer drug nationally after North East tests

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A DRUG for advanced skin cancer tested in the North East could be denied to NHS patients.

Patients in the region were among the first in the world to benefit from the first drug in 30 years to extend the lives of patients suffering from a deadly form of the illness.

But despite being given a European licence this year, the drug, Yervoy, also known as ipilimumab, may not become available to NHS patients.

Watchdog the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) has indicated it may not approve the drug for use on the NHS.

So far, about 20 patients with metastic melanoma have been given Yervoy in the North East.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said that while the drug could be very effective for a small percentage of patients, there was no way of identifying which ones would benefit and added that the drug also had a number of side effects.

Cancer specialist Professor Ruth Plummer, who has been treating patients with Yervoy as part of clinical trials, said the Nice preliminary decision is “disappointing”.