Breast cancer drug trialled in the North East rejected for NHS use because it is too costly

A drug trialled in the region that can extend the lives of women with advanced breast cancer has been rejected for NHS use

Dr Mark Verrill
Dr Mark Verrill

A pioneering breast cancer drug trialled in the North East has been rejected for use on the NHS.

The high cost of Kadcyla makes it “impossible” to recommend for widespread use in the health service, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said.

The drug, also known as trastuzumab emtansine, is used to treat breast cancer patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and can extend the lives of women with an advanced form of the illness.

It is used when the cancer cannot be surgically removed and the patient has stopped responding to initial treatments.

It can offer these women a last hope, extending the lives of patients by around six months. Dr Mark Verrill, consultant medical oncologist at Newcastle Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust, led the clinical trial of the drug at Newcastle’s Freeman Hospital.

He told The Journal: “The drug is a magic bullet and it is what we have wanted for years and years.

“It is very striking how it increases the activity of treatment while reducing side-effects. In 20 years of treating cancer, it is one of the most exciting drugs that we have had.”

Final draft guidance from Nice says the drug, which costs around £90,000 per patient at its full price, is too expensive to recommend for widespread use in the health service.

The NHS financial watchdog has become embroiled in a row with manufacturers of the drug, saying that it is “very disappointed that Roche has decided not to offer its new treatment at a price that would enable it to be available for routine use in the NHS”. Roche said that it had offered to cut the price of the drug and will be appealing Nice’s decision.

Sir Andrew Dillon, Nice chief executive, 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 for cancer drugs.

“We are really disappointed that Roche were not able to demonstrate more flexibility to help us make a positive recommendation. The company is well aware that we could not have recommend Kadcyla at the price it proposed.”

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.”


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