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Its last-stage draft guidance could be subject to an appeal but a final version is expected in November.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
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger is in Argentina having chemotherapy

Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum
theatre

Returning to the stage after 20 years makes actress feel 'nauseous'

PROMOTED VIDEO
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
News
news

Watch this commuter make a mad 320-metre, 75-step dash to work
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
News
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK edition of wedding show forced to recast after wave of drop-outs
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Student
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise
student

Top conservatoire offers ‘groundbreaking’ arts degree

Sport
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

    Teaching Assistants

    £50 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing ...

    Supply Teachers needed in Stowmarket

    £1034496 - £1516224 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: The Job:Randstad ...

    Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

    £85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

    SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

    £50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week