A drug for patients with advanced skin cancer went on sale in Britain for the first time this month, after doubling survival time in international trials. But whilst drug Zelboraf will not be assessed for use on the NHS until October, people with private medical insurance could have access to the drug on their policy straight away.
Melanoma is a form of advanced skin cancer that kills around 2,000 people in the UK each year. Whilst melanoma is rare, it is also aggressive and dangerous, and can spread quickly to other organs in the body in a process called metastasis.
Skin cancer drug Zelboraf is available through private medical insurance
Normally, patients suffering from metastatic melanoma do not live for longer than nine months. But new drug Vemurafenib, marketed by drugs firm Roche as Zelboraf, has been shown to increase life expectancy to an average of 16 months, as well as significantly improving quality of life.
Although Zelboraf is only suitable for around half of melanoma patients- those with a mutated form of the BRAF gene- it is the first major medical advance in this field for over 30 years. Dr Paul Nathan, a consultant medical oncologist at the Mount Vernon Cancer Centre, said:
"This drug makes a massive difference compared to what we’ve had before. We've never seen anything like it."
Due to its success in international trials, Zelboraf has been awarded a European license and can now be prescribed in the UK. But as with all new drugs, it needs to be approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) before it becomes widely available on the NHS. This approval process takes a significant period of time, and a decision on Zelboraf will not be made until October 2012.
Private medical insurance gives patients access to licensed drugs like Zelboraf regardless of whether or not they are available on the NHS. Dr Katrina Herren, Medical Director at Bupa Health and Wellbeing, explained: “If a cancer drug is licensed by the European Medicines Agency (EMA) and is being used within license, we will fund it regardless of cost.”
Bupa is not the only health insurer that will cover licensed drugs like Zelboraf. Aviva, AXA PPP and PruHealth are just a few of the other insurers in the UK that offer comprehensive cancer cover with no limits. With more and more cancer drugs being developed each year, it might be wise to compare health insurance policies online.
© ActiveQuote Ltd. 2012