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Published on 17 November 2011

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NICE refuses to fund breast cancer drug

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has decided not to recommend funding for Halaven® (eribulin), a new treatment for locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer in people whose disease has progressed after at least two chemotherapeutic regimens for advanced disease.

“Although the evidence presented to the independent advisory committee indicated that eribulin may help some patients live for a little longer, it also caused more undesirable side effects than other treatments already available, and the effects on health-related quality of life had not been adequately assessed,” said NICE Chief Executive Sir Andrew Dillon.

“The advisory committee heard from clinical experts that in current practice, patients at this stage usually receive sequential treatment of vinorelbine, capecitabine and, more rarely, gemcitabine.

“The experts also stressed that even if eribulin were approved by NICE, it would be unlikely to replace capecitabine and vinorelbine in the established sequential pathway because of its related side effects.”

The decision not to fund the drug has led to criticism from healthcare experts, such as Tara Beaumont, Clinical Nurse Specialist in secondary breast cancer at Breast Cancer Care.

“The decision not to recommend the use of Eribulin through the NHS in England is disappointing news for secondary breast cancer patients and their families, as the drug has been shown to extend life by several valuable months,” she said.

“We understand the financial strain currently on the NHS and we support the role of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), but looking purely at economics fails to take into account what is important to the patient.

“At Breast Cancer Care we support many people who are living with secondary breast cancer and hear from them how important extending survival by even a few months can be.

“The treatment options for people with secondary breast cancer are limited, and patients often don’t have access to a Clinical Nurse Specialist who can offer support in patient decision-making and signposting to other care providers.

“Investing in both treatments and nursing care will go a long way to improving the quality of life for people with breast cancer, as well as being cost effective in the longer term.”

NICE



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