Life-extending breast cancer drug Kadcyla too expensive for the NHS, says NICE

Breast Cancer Ribbon

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has published final draft guidance on the use of Kadcyla (trastuzumab-emtansine) to treat breast cancer patients, and says it will not be recommending the drug for routine use on the NHS due to its high cost.

However, women in England may still be able to access the drug, which has an average price tag of £90,000 for a full course, via the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). NICE has previously criticised Roche, the manufacturers of Kadcyla, for not making it more affordable.

However, Roche says that discussions, which have been ongoing for some time, are continuing. It says: "We need a unified approach, and, moving forward, it is imperative that we work together to build a pragmatic, flexible and sustainable system for assessing medicines that prioritises clinical value. Only then will we be able to ensure the best outcomes for people with cancer in the UK.”

The drug has been found to slow progression and thereby extend the lives of women with incurable metastatic HER2-positive breast cancer – when the cancer has spread elsewhere in the body and cannot be removed surgically - by an average of six months.

Breast invasive scirrhous carcinoma histopathology

Dr Caitlin Barrand, Assistant Director of Policy & Campaigns at Breast Cancer Now, describes the news as “highly disappointing”. She adds: “We simply cannot continue in this way, with highly effective new cancer drugs being held just out of reach for patients in certain areas of the UK. This drug isn’t available to those that need it in Scotland either, and had Roche failed to collaborate with NHS England in the last round of delisting from the Fund, patients in England might be missing out too.

“It’s time that the Prime Minister showed real leadership on this issue. People living with incurable cancer don’t have time to lose, and a fairer, more flexible system that enables access to the best treatments available on a routine, UK-wide basis is long overdue.”

What is the Cancer Drugs Fund?

The CDF was established by the coalition government in 2011 to allow cancer patients in England to access costly cancer drugs, however it is expected to end in March 2016. A replacement scheme is likely to be introduced from April 2016, but details are yet to be announced by government.

The CDF, which is managed by NHS England, has made headlines in recent weeks after it was revealed that the fund was likely to go over budget by £100 in 2014-15. The range of therapies available through the fund have been scaled back as a result, from 84 at the beginning of the year down to 41 by last month. No similar scheme currently exists in Scotland, Wales or in Northern Ireland.

This content is subject to our Disclaimer.

About the author

Georgie Fenn, writes most of our news articles and social media posts.