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Its last-stage draft guidance could be subject to an appeal but a final version is expected in November.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

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
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

    C# Developer (Genetic Algorithms, .NET 4.5, TDD, SQL, AI)

    £40000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Developer (...

    C# Full Stack Developer (.NET 4.0, ASP.NET, MVC, Ajax, WCF,SQL)

    £55000 - £65000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Full Stack ...

    AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - Investment Management

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: AIFMD Business Analyst / Consultant - I...

    Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pillar 1, 2 & 3) Insurance

    £450 - £600 per day: Harrington Starr: Business Analyst Solvency II SME (Pilla...

    Day In a Page

    Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

    Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
    Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

    Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

    Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
    Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

    Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

    'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

    Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
    7 best quadcopters and drones

    Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

    From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

    British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
    Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

    A descent into madness in America's heartlands

    David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
    BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

    BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

    Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
    Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

    Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

    Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

    But could his predictions of war do the same?
    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

    Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

    Young at hort

    Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

    Beyond a joke

    Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

    Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

    A wild night out

    Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve