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Bowel cancer patients denied drug

Bowel cancer patients will not get access to a potentially life-extending drug, the health watchdog has confirmed.

Bevacizumab (Avastin) can help patients with advanced bowel cancer which has spread to other organs, usually the liver and lungs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said it had considered the drug, including a risk-sharing scheme from the manufacturer Roche, but still believes that the price is too high for the potential benefit.

Avastin is not a cure but has been shown to typically give people an extra six weeks of life when added to the chemotherapy drugs capecitabine and oxaliplatin.

Research shows patients typically live 21.3 months compared with 19.9 months with chemotherapy alone.

Data also suggests the trio of drugs means 78% of patients see their liver tumours shrink to such a degree that they are eligible for potentially life-saving surgery.

Avastin costs almost £21,000 per patient and an estimated 6,500 people in the UK could have been eligible to try the drug.

Despite Nice's decision, patients may still be able to access the drug through the Government's new cancer drugs fund.

Some £50 million is currently in the fund, and an extra £200 million will be available from April, and regional panels of doctors and cancer specialists are in charge of deciding which patients should benefit from the cash.

Ian Beaumont, campaigns director at Bowel Cancer UK, said: "We are naturally disappointed that Nice has confirmed that it is not approving bevacizumab for use on the NHS, especially when there is so much evidence of the treatment's efficacy. We hope, however, that the introduction of the interim drugs fund last month and the planned introduction of a full cancer drugs fund from April next year will enable patients and their clinicians to gain greater access to effective treatments like bevacizumab on the NHS."


From Belfast Telegraph