Breast cancer patients will now only be able to access Avastin through private health insurance or through the Cancer Drugs Fund, after NICE turns it down for widespread use on the NHS.
Avastin (bevacizumab) is a drug that works by starving cancerous tumours of blood. It has been licensed for prescription in the UK for breast cancer that had spread to other parts of the body, in combination with a type of chemotherapy called capecitabine.
However, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has ruled that it does not help improve patients’ quality of life of provide value for money, and therefore will not be made routinely available on the NHS. Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE's chief executive, said:
"We can't recommend a drug that has not been shown to work as well as, or better than, current treatments and costs much more.”
It will now be the responsibility of NHS trusts in England to make decisions locally on the funding of Avastin. Doctors will have to apply on behalf of their patients to an ‘exceptional case’ committee or to the Cancer Drugs Fund.
However, patients with private health insurance could still have access to Avastin through their policy. Many health insurers cover the cost of licensed drugs, even if they aren’t approved for widespread use on the NHS.
Roche, which manufactures Avastin, said it was disappointed by the decision from NICE and criticised the way the organisation had reviewed data about the drug's effectiveness. A spokeswoman said:
"The decision by NICE means women in England with advanced breast cancer and who have limited treatment options available to them will instead have to rely on their clinicians' successful application to the Cancer Drugs Fund in order to receive treatment with Avastin.”
NICE reviewed four clinical studies of Avastin in women with breast cancer and found the drug does not prolong overall survival or provide a sufficient benefit in slowing disease progression to outweigh the "significant risk" to patients.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012