NICE (National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence) has given the 'thumbs down' signal to Roche's once-a-day lung cancer pill Tarceva as its final decision on the matter. It says that the drug is of limited use and too expensive to be given on the NHS.
This decision will only flame the fires of controversy over access to expensive modern cancer treatments, as it follows bickering over whether Herceptin, another Roche product, should be given to women with early breast cancer.
AdvertisementCalling the action as 'perverse' and 'flawed' Roche is claiming a soon- to -be -followed appeal against NICE's decision.
Charities have also appealed against the decision that will make needy patients opting for this drug to pay for them, out of their own pockets.
Mike Unger, chief executive of The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, says: "We are obviously severely disappointed and disillusioned with NICE's decision not to approve Tarceva purely on economic grounds.
"It's the second blow that NICE has dealt to lung cancer patients in a month, following the announcement to decline Alimta - so there are now very few options left for lung cancer patients."
NICE 's Chief Executive Andrew Dillon has come out against Roche saying that data has revealed that prescribing Tarceva is not an effective use of National Health Service resources when compared with using either Sanofi-Aventis' Taxotere or best supportive care.
Still Dillon has conceded that evidence on the drug is still emerging and has called for more research to test if certain sub- groups would benefit from the drug.
In defense, Roche says clinical trials have shown that Tarceva reduced symptoms of non-small-cell lung cancer, the most common type of the disease, and increased one-year survival rates by 41 percent.
Tarceva was licensed and launched in Britain in 2005 at a cost of 1,631 pounds for one month's treatment.
The medicine belongs to a new generation of "smart drugs", or targeted therapies, which attack only cancer cells and are tolerated much better than traditional chemotherapy.
Their high cost, however, stands in the way of its continued use, as governments and insurers around the world are already struggling to contain rising healthcare costs.
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