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Its last-stage draft guidance could be subject to an appeal but a final version is expected in November.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
people
News
Ed Miliband received a warm welcome in Chester
election 2015
Life and Style
Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch during an Apple special even
fashionIs the iWatch for you? Well, it depends if you want for the fitness tech, or the style
News
Astronauts could be kept asleep for days or even weeks
scienceScientists are looking for a way to keep astronauts in a sleeplike state for days or weeks
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
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

    Recruitment Genius: Project Implementation Executive

    £18000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

    £16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

    Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

    £18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

    £28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

    Day In a Page

    NHS struggling to monitor the safety and efficacy of its services outsourced to private providers

    Who's monitoring the outsourced NHS services?

    A report finds that private firms are not being properly assessed for their quality of care
    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    Zac Goldsmith: 'I'll trigger a by-election over Heathrow'

    The Tory MP said he did not want to stand again unless his party's manifesto ruled out a third runway. But he's doing so. Watch this space
    How do Greek voters feel about Syriza's backtracking on its anti-austerity pledge?

    How do Greeks feel about Syriza?

    Five voters from different backgrounds tell us what they expect from Syriza's charismatic leader Alexis Tsipras
    From Iraq to Libya and Syria: The wars that come back to haunt us

    The wars that come back to haunt us

    David Cameron should not escape blame for his role in conflicts that are still raging, argues Patrick Cockburn
    Sam Baker and Lauren Laverne: Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    Too busy to surf? Head to The Pool

    A new website is trying to declutter the internet to help busy women. Holly Williams meets the founders
    Heston Blumenthal to cook up a spice odyssey for British astronaut manning the International Space Station

    UK's Major Tum to blast off on a spice odyssey

    Nothing but the best for British astronaut as chef Heston Blumenthal cooks up his rations
    John Harrison's 'longitude' clock sets new record - 300 years on

    ‘Longitude’ clock sets new record - 300 years on

    Greenwich horologists celebrate as it keeps to within a second of real time over a 100-day test
    Fears in the US of being outgunned in the vital propaganda wars by Russia, China - and even Isis - have prompted a rethink on overseas broadcasters

    Let the propaganda wars begin - again

    'Accurate, objective, comprehensive': that was Voice of America's creed, but now its masters want it to promote US policy, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Why Japan's incredible long-distance runners will never win the London Marathon

    Japan's incredible long-distance runners

    Every year, Japanese long-distance runners post some of the world's fastest times – yet, come next weekend, not a single elite competitor from the country will be at the London Marathon
    Why does Tom Drury remain the greatest writer you've never heard of?

    Tom Drury: The quiet American

    His debut was considered one of the finest novels of the past 50 years, and he is every bit the equal of his contemporaries, Jonathan Franzen, Dave Eggers and David Foster Wallace
    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    You should judge a person by how they peel a potato

    Dave Hax's domestic tips are reminiscent of George Orwell's tea routine. The world might need revolution, but we like to sweat the small stuff, says DJ Taylor
    Beige is back: The drab car colours of the 1970s are proving popular again

    Beige to the future

    Flares and flounce are back on catwalks but a revival in ’70s car paintjobs was a stack-heeled step too far – until now
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's dishes highlight the delicate essence of fresh cheeses

    Bill Granger cooks with fresh cheeses

    More delicate on the palate, milder, fresh cheeses can also be kinder to the waistline
    Aston Villa vs Liverpool: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful,' says veteran Shay Given

    Shay Given: 'This FA Cup run has been wonderful'

    The Villa keeper has been overlooked for a long time and has unhappy memories of the national stadium – but he is savouring his chance to play at Wembley
    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own