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Charities brand cancer drugs decision a "scandal"

Bowel cancer

The decision not to make two bowel cancer drugs available on the NHS has been greeted with anger and dismay by cancer charities.

Bevacizumab (Avastin) and cetuximab (Erbitux) have been shown to extend the lives of those with bowel cancer by an average of five months, yet the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has advised that they are not cost effective.

Hilary Whittaker, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, described the decision as a "scandal" and has called on Nice to reconsider its guidance.

"We feel extremely disappointed that bowel cancer – the second biggest cancer killer - is not being given the attention or funding it deserves," Ms Whittaker commented.

"It is terrible that, for those people who sadly find themselves battling with this disease, the value placed on their lives seems to be so minimal, with effective and licensed treatments today put out of reach for the majority of patients."

Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with roughly 50 people dying each day from the disease.

It affects one in 18 people and represents roughly 13 per cent of all new cancer cases in men and women.

Avastin and Erbitux, both of which are monoclonal antibodies, cost on average £17,000 and £12,000 per patient but, according to Ms Whittaker, all other EU nations offer the drugs to bowel cancer patients in the disease's advanced stages.

The founder of Lynn's Bowel Cancer Campaign, Lynn Faulds Wood, told the Today programme that Nice's decision was "cruelty beyond belief".

While some patients will continue to access the drugs via private cancer treatment, many are simply unable to afford them.

However, the Nice chief executive, Andrew Dillon, defended the decision, telling the Today programme that it had been a "very difficult judgement".

"There are so many areas where the NHS could invest more, much more, and get substantial improvements in the quality of life and in some cases extensions for life for people right across the board," he said.

"What we do is look carefully at the extent of those benefits and yes, we do have to set them against the costs of what the NHS is going to have to pay for that. In the end, part of our responsibility is to help the NHS spread and use its resources as effectively and fairly as possible."

Nice will make its final decision regarding the two drugs in November.

© Adfero Ltd

 

Cancer treatment news : 21/08/2006

 

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