Cancer Drugs Fund: Kadcyla back on list

Breast cancer scan Image copyright Science Photo Library

The Cancer Drugs Fund will continue to pay for the breast cancer treatment Kadcyla, after the company Roche cut its price, the NHS in England has said.

The fund, which pays for drugs not routinely available on the NHS, has been cutting the number it offers, in order to balance the books.

Many, including breast cancer treatment Avastin, remain off the fund's list, as treatments for certain tumours.

Charities say the fund is worryingly unstable and causes patients anxiety.

'Extremely confusing'

The Cancer Drugs Fund was created in 2010 to help the NHS provide drugs not deemed cost-effective by the medicines' watchdog, the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

But in the past few months, 16 medicines have been taken off the list because NHS experts said they did not provide enough benefit for the amount of cost.

Kadcyla (also known as trastuzumab emtansine) was expected to be axed. Initial costs were set at £90,000 per patient.

Evidence suggests it can add six months of life on average to women dying with an aggressive form of breast cancer.

Prof Peter Clark, of the Cancer Drugs Fund, welcomed the move to keep some drugs on the list.

He said: "In [some cases] they were simply too expensive, so we are pleased the pharmaceutical companies worked with us, reducing their prices, ensuring these treatments remain available to patients."

But he added that in other cases the medicines set to be removed were the least effective on the list and the NHS could not continue to fund them.

Richard Erwin, of drug company Roche, said it was unfortunate that a separate drug, Avastin (also known as bevacizumab), used for colorectal and breast cancer, had been rejected.

He added: "This means that patients in England will no longer have access to medicines that are routinely available as standard of care across most of Europe."

Avastin will, however, continue to be available in certain circumstances - for example, for cervical cancer.

Prof Paul Workman, of the Institute of Cancer Research, said the whole situation was now "extremely confusing".

He added: "We are now in a situation where some cancer drugs have been off, on and off and now back on the list of available drugs.

"For people with cancer, it is also distressing, with such uncertainty about which drugs are going to be available from them."

The current fund will remain in place until 1 April 2016.

NHS England and NICE will be discussing proposals for a new system in the coming weeks .

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