UK Health Body Rejects Expensive Cancer Drug

9 February 2010 (Last Updated February 9th, 2010 18:30)

The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has rejected the use of Novartis kidney cancer drug everolimus (Afinitor), saying its usefulness does not justify its expense. While the health body admits that there is evidence that Afinitor is clinically effective a

The UK's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has rejected the use of Novartis kidney cancer drug everolimus (Afinitor), saying its usefulness does not justify its expense.

While the health body admits that there is evidence that Afinitor is clinically effective as a second-line treatment of advanced renal cell carcinoma, there is limited data to prove the drug can extend patients' lives.

NICE has come under fire recently from cancer charities who believe the decision to reject expensive drugs discriminates against patients with rare cancers, the treatments for which are much more costly to develop.

The cost of the drug is £2,970 for 30 tablets, with an eight-week cycle costing £5,544. A offer from Novartis for a risk-sharing scheme to give patients the first treatment pack for free followed by 5% off the cost of subsequent packs was rejected.

NICE clinical and public health director Professor Peter Littlejohns said that although evidence implies that this treatment is clinically effective, there is limited data about how long it can extend life.

"We do not want to divert NHS funds to a treatment that costs more but doesn't help people live longer," Littlejohns said.

The decision comes just weeks after NICE turned down a rheumatoid arthritis drug despite the medication being available to NHS patients in Scotland.

Novartis intends to challenge the decision.