Bowel cancer drugs ban a scandal, say campaigners

Two drugs hailed as a huge advance in treating bowel cancer will not be approved for use on the NHS, the Government's health watchdog said today.











Campaigners said the move by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) was a "backward step" and thousands of patients would die early as a result.



The watchdog rejected Avastin (bevacizumab) and Erbitux (cetuximab) for treating advanced bowel cancer, saying the drugs were not cost-effective.



Its last-stage draft guidance could be subject to an appeal but a final version is expected in November.



Hilary Whittaker, chief executive of Beating Bowel Cancer, branded the decision a "scandal" and said the drug was widely available across Europe.



"Why should patients in the UK be worse off than patients in the rest of Europe?," she said. "It just doesn't add up."



Michael Wickham, chief executive of Bowel Cancer UK, said the decision was "further proof that the NHS is simply not working for bowel cancer patients and is overdue a full and comprehensive review".



The Government was content with a £10bn overspend on its controversial IT programme yet patients were denied treatments "that can help them live longer and better lives", he added.



The NHS of 2006 was content for patients to have to go private and "to spend their often limited time and energy fighting bureaucracy rather than the disease", he continued.



Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK and 35,000 people are newly-diagnosed every year.



Around 16,000 people die from it every year and more than half of new cases reach the advanced stage, which Avastin and Erbitux are designed to treat.



The therapies have been shown to extend survival by an average of five months and work by specifically targeting cancer cells.



Erbitux, which costs around £700 a week, has been shown to shrink tumours allowing the possibility of surgery, but neither drug is a cure.



Dr Mark Saunders, consultant clinical oncologist at the Christie Hospital NHS Trust, said: "Not only is this a sad day for bowel cancer patients, but also for oncologists in the UK, who want to offer their patients the best possible range of treatments.



"In other European countries, oncologists can use Erbitux and get the cost reimbursed. Why should patients and oncologists in the UK be treated any differently? Today's decision signals a backward step for bowel cancer."



The decision was also branded ironic, given that British scientists led the way in Erbitux clinical trials.



Erbitux has been available to Welsh patients since it was approved by Assembly Health Minister Brian Gibbons in June.



But that decision will now be overturned and an Assembly Government spokeswoman said Mr Gibbons was "highly unlikely" to appeal.



Joanne Rule, Cancerbackup chief executive, said pharmaceutical companies also needed to do more to make their treatments meet the Nice affordability threshold.



She added: "There must surely be smarter ways to negotiate on price. We urge the manufacturers, the Department of Health and Nice to meet urgently to find ways to make cancer treatments more affordable.



"Without change, we will simply perpetuate a two-tier system in which important treatments will only be available to those who can afford to pay."



Andrea Sutcliffe, deputy chief executive of Nice, said: "Following consultation on the first draft guidance, our assessment of the evidence, which shows that neither of these drugs represents a good use of scarce NHS resources, has not changed.



"Although bevacizumab does show some increased benefit over standard treatment, the appraisal committee was not persuaded that it was cost- effective in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.



"The evidence available on cetuximab does not compare it with current standard treatment and therefore we are not able to assess whether it is any better than existing treatments or whether the NHS could justify spending money on the drug."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
News
people
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    SAP PROJECT MANAGER

    £60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MAN...

    Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

    £50000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A unique and rare opport...

    Team Secretary - (Client Development/Sales Team) - Wimbledon

    £28000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Secretary (Sales Team Support) - Mat...

    SEN KS1 Teacher

    £21804 - £31868 per annum: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Qualified and experi...

    Day In a Page

    Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

    With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
    Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

    How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

    As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
    We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

    We will remember them

    Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
    Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

    Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
    Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

    Acting in video games gets a makeover

    David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
    Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

    Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

    Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
    Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

    Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

    Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
    Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

    Spanx launches range of jeans

    The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
    10 best over-ear headphones

    Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

    Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
    Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

    Commonwealth Games

    David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

    UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

    Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
    Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

    The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

    A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

    Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

    How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
    Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

    He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star