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NICE backs life-extending Erbitux


The drugs watchdog has published new guidance on a medication which could be used to treat bowel cancer patients whose disease has spread to their liver.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved use of the drug Erbitux (also called cetuximab) for those who have already undergone surgery and whose disease has spread to the liver alone.

To be eligible for the new treatment, patients must be unable to tolerate another drug, oxaliplatin, before they will be issued Erbitux for a maximum of 16 weeks.

If the drug proves effective then life expectancy can increase by up to two years.

Around 60% of patients with a cancer gene called K-RAS wild type respond well to Erbitux, but those patients without the gene, around 35%, will not benefit from the life-extending drug.

Pharmaceutical giant Merck has agreed to a 16% reduction of the cost of the drug per patient and final guidance will be issued in July if there are no appeals against it.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at NICE, said: “The Committee concluded that under the specific circumstances outlined in the guidance the cost of cetuximab in relation to how well it works is an effective use of NHS resources.”

Copyright © Press Association 2009

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence

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