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Nice rejects ovarian cancer drug

A drug used to treat women with ovarian cancer has been rejected as too expensive for the NHS by health officials.

Olaparib was given to women with BRCA1 or BRCA2 mutations of the disease, but the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said the price the health service is being asked to pay for it is too high for the benefit it may provide to patients.

Nice said it has opened a public consultation on the matter, which was met with concern by Professor Paul Workman, of the Institute of Cancer Research, who said it will mean hundreds of women a year will not be able to receive it.

He said: "We are very disappointed that women will not have access to this innovative drug through the NHS. The evidence of olaparib's benefit in women with BRCA positive ovarian tumours is very clear, and this frustrating delay will prevent around 450 women each year from being able to access a beneficial treatment.

"This decision highlights how the current system of drug evaluation and pricing needs reform - in particular to reward the development of innovative drugs that address unmet need in cancer treatment, and which have additional, further potential."

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.

"Because patients are already living longer than two years with conventional treatment, we weren't able to apply the flexibility we can sometimes use when we appraise cancer drugs.

"The cost to the NHS of using this new drug isn't consistent with the benefits that patients for whom it works will gain and so we were disappointed not to be able to recommend it in this draft guidance."

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.

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