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NICE approves PharmaMar cancer drug


PharmaMar’s new cancer drug trabectedin has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) after the company agreed to a cost-reducing scheme.

Nice had previously ruled against the treatment, which costs £3,500 per cycle and typically extends the life of patients by at least three months.

But PharmaMar has now agreed to meet the cost of the drug, used to treat people with advanced soft tissue sarcoma, if it is needed beyond a fifth cycle of treatment.

The disease affects the supporting tissues of the body. Cancerous cells sometimes migrate from the original tumour to other parts of the body, including the lungs and bones.

The disease affects 2,000 people a year in the UK and between 500 and 600 people in England and Wales are currently living with it. Trabectedin will benefit around 110 patients a year.

The drug works by altering the DNA in cancer cells, which stops them growing and spreading. Dr Carole Longson, director of the health technology evaluation centre at Nice, said criteria had been applied to specifically look at life-extending, end-of-life treatments.

Final guidance telling the NHS to use the drug will be published next year.

Copyright Press Association 2009

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