Nice opposes NHS availability of cancer drug

Velcade, the only licensed drug for people with multiple myeloma who have relapsed, should not be available on the NHS in England, according to a government advisory group.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) has announced that Velcade (bortezomib) should only be available for those taking part in clinical trials, a decision which was met with dismay by cancer patients.

Eric Low, executive director of the International Myeloma Foundation, described the decision as "shocking".

He commented: "It is devastating, unjust, unfair and ill-informed. It will leave myeloma in the desert of cancer care treatment."

Mr Low said that Nice had "failed to understand how myeloma is treated and the vital role that Velcade plays", adding that the decision must have been made because of financial reasons.

In its draft appraisal, Nice said that the drug "had not been shown to be cost-effective compared with current practice in the NHS".

The committee concluded that Velcade "should not be recommended for the treatment of people with relapsed or refractory multiple myeloma, except within well-designed clinical trials".

Myeloma, a type of bone marrow cancer, is one of the most complex and little understood cancers, affecting between 14,000 and 20,000 people at any one time in the UK.

Velcade has already been approved in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and in the majority of European countries and, in many patients, stops cancer cells from regenerating, thereby improving and prolonging life.

Patients looking to obtain the drug privately can expect to pay around £15,000 for a course of treatment.

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