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UK 'falling behind' in cancer care

Published 03/06/2015

AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot made the comments after Nice said it could not recommend ovarian cancer drug olaparib
AstraZeneca chief executive Pascal Soriot made the comments after Nice said it could not recommend ovarian cancer drug olaparib

The head of a pharmaceutical giant has accused UK health officials of lacking innovation after an ovarian cancer drug was rejected as too expensive for the NHS.

Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of AstraZeneca, said the UK was "falling behind" in its cancer care following the news the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it could not recommend the drug olaparib.

Nice said the price the health service is being asked to pay for olaparib, given to women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations of the disease, is too high for the benefit it may provide to patients.

But Mr Soriot, whose firm manufactures the drug, told the Financial Times the Government was failing to "connect the dots" between the health system and scientific research.

He said: "How can a government say they want this country to be an innovation centre with a strong focus on life sciences and yet when we discover new innovation it doesn't find a market?"

Announcing the decision on Monday, Nice chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: "Olaparib slows the progression of the disease for patients with some forms of ovarian cancer but the evidence that it can extend life is uncertain."

Ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer in women and those who have BRCA1 or 2 gene mutations may have an increased risk of developing it.

Earlier this year Hollywood actress Angelina Jolie announced she had made the tough decision to have her ovaries removed after discovering she carries a faulty copy of the BRCA1 gene, putting her at very high risk of developing the disease.

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