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Watchdog approves kidney treatment


UK kidney patients are celebrating after winning the right to receive an expensive life-prolonging drug on the NHS.

Sunitinib has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). The decision means patients with advanced kidney cancer in England, Wales and Scotland should be prescribed sunitinib, marketed as Sutent, as an immediate treatment.

The drug, which comes in the form of capsules to be swallowed, is not a cure but has been found to extend patients’ survival by anything from several months to more than two years.

Previously, NICE has ruled that sunitinib was not cost-effective and should not be approved for treatment on the NHS. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), NICE`s equivalent in Scotland, had also rejected the drug but reversed its earlier decision in the wake of the new recommendation.

The U-turn came about after the drug`s maker, Pfizer, came up with a proposal to make the drug more affordable.

The pharmaceutical firm has not only agreed to knocking 5% off the cost of sunitinib – leaving a yearly course of treatment costing around £24,000 per patient – it also offered to pay for the first six-week phase of treatment, at a cost of just over £3,000.

Copyright Press Association 2009


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