NHS watchdog refuses to pay for lung cancer drug that is twice as effective as chemo and could benefit 1,000 patients a yearNew drug halts advance of non-small cell lung cancer for eight monthsCrizotinib costs 4,000 a month and could benefit 1,000 patients a yearNHS watchdog deems it too expensive due to lack of evidence of benefits
00:07 GMT, 27 March 2013
10:06 GMT, 27 March 2013
Access denied: Crizotinib could benefit 1,000 patients a year but is deemed to lack evidence of benefits says NHS
A new drug that combats a specific type of lung cancer is too expensive for the NHS, says the rationing watchdog.
Crizotinib, which is aimed at patients in their 40s and 50s, halts the advance of the disease for almost eight months – more than double the time for chemotherapy.
The drug, which was fast-tracked for use in the US last year, is designed for patients with a specific genetic mutation – non-small cell lung cancer.
It is estimated that 1,000 patients could benefit each year from Crizotinib, which costs 4,000 a month.
But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence claims it is unclear how much benefit the drug gives to patients so it is not deemed to be cost-effective.
Almost one in seven people with the disease were never smokers or light smokers who gave up, but like all sufferers the cancer is often diagnosed late when it has spread.
For three-quarters of all new cases, five-year survival rates are as low as five per cent because the cancer is advanced.
Dr Michael Peake, Clinical Lead, National Cancer Intelligence Network, said ‘In an aggressive disease like advanced lung cancer, where, for the majority of patients, survival is exceptionally poor and where not all patients can expect to gain much benefit with existing therapies, there is an urgent need for new medicines like crizotinib which target the specific drivers of a patient’s tumour.
‘Clinicians recognise that the future of cancer treatment lies in these types of targeted medicines.
‘If this preliminary guidance is upheld, it potentially signals a setback to the advancement of cancer medicine in the UK.’
Currently many patients with advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC will have a second round of chemotherapy which threatens hair loss and other side effects – some life-threatening.
Rapid help: The new drug halts the advance for non-small cell lung cancer for eight months, more than double the time for chemotherapy
The drug is designed for NSCLC
patients with a specific genetic mutation, of which at least two thirds
of patients respond to crizotinib compared with just a fifth having
chemo, with far fewer side effects.
They show a doubling of time on average before the cancer progressed, up from three months to 7.7 months.
Around 41,500 new cases of lung cancer are diagnosed each year, including 14 per cent of patients who were never smokers.
It is estimated that 1,000 patients could benefit each year from the new drug, which costs just over 4,000 a month.
Chemotherapy costs more than 1,000 a month but is being given to hundreds of patients who will get little or no benefit, according to experts.
Improving life: The drug is designed for lung cancer patients with a specific genetic mutation, of which at least two thirds of patients respond to crizotinib with far fewer side effects.
Dr David Montgomery, Medical Director, Pfizer Oncology UK which makes the drug, said ‘Personalised medicines are developed specifically for selected subgroups of patients who are most likely to benefit, sparing those in whom they will have no effect.
‘We believe this approach is better for patients and offers better value for the NHS, a concept in keeping with Nice’s purpose.
‘We are committed to working through the Nice consultation process to address the uncertainties within this preliminary recommendation.’ The drug, has been granted a conditional licence by the EU drug regulatory body because it serves an ‘unmet clinical need’ which is expected shortly to become a full licence.
Lung cancer is the most common cause of cancer death in the UK, accounting for more than a fifth of all cancer deaths.