A new drug for a rare form of lung cancer has been turned down for use on the NHS, but could be available for patients with private medical insurance.
A new drug has been turned down for use on the NHS
New drug crizotinib, marketed as Xalkori, is designed to treat non-small cell lung cancer that has spread to other parts of the body, and is caused by a particular gene defect.
For three-quarters of all new cases of this type of lung cancer, five-year survival rates are as low as five per cent because the cancer is advanced.
But new drug crizotinib is twice as effective as chemotherapy at halting the progression of the disease.
In clinical trials last year, the drug doubled the time taken for treated tumours to start growing again or stop shrinking.
Patients taking crizotinib had a progression-free survival of 7.7 months, compared with three months for those on standard chemotherapy.
The drug is licensed for private prescription in the UK, with a price tag of £4,000 a month. Patients can access it through their medical insurance or meet the costs themselves.
However, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has turned down crizotinib for use on the NHS, because it does not consider it to be cost effective.
NICE normally recommends drugs costing around £20,000 per quality-adjusted life year (QALY). The cost for crizotinib when combined with chemo would be between £63,000 and £181,000.
Experts are disappointed at the decision, since the drug could potentially benefit 1,000 patients a year who otherwise would have very limited options.
Dr Michael Peake, clinical lead at the National Cancer Intelligence Network and National Cancer Lead at NHS Cancer Improvement, said:
"In an aggressive disease like advanced lung cancer, where, for the majority of patients, survival is exceptionally poor and where not all patients can expect to gain much benefit with existing therapies, there is an urgent need for new medicines like crizotinib which target the specific drivers of a patient's tumour.”
Because the drug is licensed for use in the UK, it may be covered by private medical insurers like Bupa and Aviva despite not being available on the NHS. For access to drugs like crizotinib in the future, look for a policy with full cancer cover.
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