Wyeth Pharmaceuticals has blasted the UK’s National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence’s (NICE) decision to reject an appeal for Torisel to be recommended as a first-line treatment for advanced kidney cancer.

According to Wyeth, Torisel is the only drug proven to significantly extend the lives of advanced renal cell cancer sufferers and the decision to reject the recommendation discriminates against the most seriously ill renal cell cancer patients.

NICE rejected Wyeth’s appeal to recommend Torisel, which has already been approved in the EU, on the basis that the evidence to support the use of the treatment in such a small body of patients isn’t strong enough to justify using NHS funds.

NICE clinical and public health director Peter Littlejohns said that sunitinib, another treatment recommended for first-line renal cancer in March 2009, would now be considered as a first-line treatment for kidney cancer sufferers.

“The evidence to support the use of the other first and second-line treatments isn’t strong enough to justify using NHS funds,” Littlejohns said.

Wyeth medical director Dr Vignesh Rajah said that the decision further accentuates the disparity in cancer care between the UK and other advanced countries, where Torisel and other innovative renal cell cancer drugs are routinely used.

“Wyeth is very disappointed by the rejection of this appeal as we believe the Appraisal Committee failed to apply the Institute’s own guidance on giving greater weight to the quality of life of patients in the later stage of terminal diseases,” Rajah said.

Torisel is licensed as a treatment for a very small group of rare advanced renal cell cancer for patients with the poorest prognosis.

NICE recently conducted a health technology appraisal of kidney cancer drugs, which recommended that bevacizumab, sorafenib and temsirolimus (Torisel) should not be first-line treatment options for advanced and/or metastatic renal cell carcinoma in England and Wales.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, Roche, the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer and a joint appeal from Rarers Cancer Forum and Macmillan Cancer Support appealed against this Final Appraisal Determination by NICE, without success.