Cancer drug is vital, blast campaigners

A support group for cancer patients today criticised proposals to stop NHS funding of a vital drug.

SUFFOLK: A support group for cancer patients today criticised proposals to stop NHS funding of a vital drug.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has said in its draft guidance that the cost of Nexavar, a drug which helps prolong the lives of those with advanced liver cancer by up to six months, is too high and therefore will not be available on the NHS.

The drug, produced by pharmaceutical firm Bayer, costs �36,000 a year per patient.

David Dyer, chairman of the Ipswich Cancer Service User Group, questioned why the drugs are so expensive and called for them to be made available to patients who need them.

He said: “I would take the view that if these drugs are available, then they should be given to the patients to help prolong their life.

“Nothing is more sacred than life itself. Those last few months with the family are so important.

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“Any drug which prolongs life should be given. There should be some interim ruling from the government where the cost of expensive drugs like these can be curbed in special circumstances.”

Liver cancer is one of the more rare forms of the disease. More than 3,000 people are diagnosed with liver cancer every year in the UK and the prognosis is generally poor. Only about 20 per cent of patients are alive one year after diagnosis and this drops to just 5 per cent after five years.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “The price being asked by (the manufacturer) Bayer is simply too high to justify using NHS money which could be spent on better value cancer treatments.”

Dr Andrew Hassan, medical director of NHS Suffolk, said: “When the final decision on the appraisal of this new medicine is completed, NHS Suffolk will ensure that patients have access to those treatments which NICE has deemed appropriate.”

Do you know someone who suffers from liver cancer and is affected by this? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

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