Kidney cancer patients denied life-extending drug as NHS watchdog declares it 'not cost effective'
NICE says that the NHS should not provide axitinibThe drug can extend the lives of people with advanced kidney cancer but has been deemed not 'cost effective'It works by cutting off the blood supply to the tumour
Jenny Hope Medical Correspondent
12:23 GMT, 28 March 2013
17:06 GMT, 28 March 2013
Thousands of people with kidney cancer that has spread are to be denied a new pill that could prolong their lives, claim doctors.
Axitinib extends the lives of advanced kidney cancer sufferers by two months on average, according to trials.
But the drug is the latest to face an NHS ban by the rationing watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).
It has already axed another drug that could be used after treatment stops working and the cancer starts growing again.
Banned: Axitinib extends the lives of advanced kidney cancer sufferers by two months on average, according to trials
Professor Tom Powles, consultant oncologist at Barts Health NHS Trust, London, said: ‘This is very bad news for the thousands of patients across England and wales who could benefit from treatment with axitinib.
‘What will it take for NICE to approve a treatment in this setting’
Professor Powles said it was one of a new generation of drugs that cut off the blood supply to tumours which promise to extend life far more than trial data suggests.
He said: ‘In the seven years since I started working in kidney cancer, average life expectancy has more than doubled from 12 months to 30 months because we can treat continuously with different drugs.
‘But restricting the drugs we can offer, particularly after first-line treatment has failed, means we are losing the benefits. Indeed it may mean we are wasting money on drugs at an earlier stage because we can’t provide maintenance therapy that gives patients a longer life and better quality of life.’
Axitinib, also known as Inlyta, targets molecules on tumour cells that help stimulate blood vessel growth.
With their supply of oxygen and nutrients cut off, tumours eventually starve and die.
Altogether 9,000 people are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year, including one-third which has spread because of lack of symptoms in the early stages. The average age is 55 years.
Almost two in three might be eligible for the new drug when first-line treatments stop working.
Broadcaster James Whale, chairman of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer and a kidney cancer survivor, says the decision is unacceptable
However, a draft decision by NICE says axitinib is not a ‘cost effective use of limited NHS resources’ at around 3,000 a month. It previously banned everolimus for the same stage of the disease.
Broadcaster James Whale, chairman of the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer and a kidney cancer survivor, said: ‘The James Whale Fund considers as unacceptable the decision by NICE not to approve axitinib as a second-line treatment for patients with advanced kidney cancer.’
Dr David Montgomery, medical director of the drug manufacturer Pfizer Oncology UK, said: ‘Pfizer is extremely disappointed and saddened by today’s decision. Pfizer has worked closely with NICE and done everything in its power to demonstrate the value axitinib brings to patients and address the questions about cost effectiveness raised by NICE.
‘We remain deeply committed to the field of kidney cancer and believe that Inlyta is an important treatment advance that represents good value to the NHS. We will continue to challenge this decision in the interests of patients.’