Patients to miss out on cancer drug

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WIGANERS suffering from skin cancer could be denied a potentially life-extending drug.

The drugs regulator, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) refused to approve the drug vemurafenib for use on the NHS.

The drug was set to be used by The Christie hospital in Manchester to treat patients, some of whom travel from Wigan, after trials.

However, NICE have refused them the licence to use vemurafenib as it is not cost-effective.

Vemurafenib targets a faulty gene present in half of patients with inoperable skin cancer – and stops it from reproducing.

The disease kills 2,000 people a year in Britain and rates are rising faster than any other common cancer.

Each course of treatment – taken in tablet form – costs on average £50,000 per patient.

The medication, licensed for use in Britain after an EU Commission review, has been hailed as the biggest breakthrough in melanoma treatment for 30 years.

But the drugs body said it was too difficult to weigh the benefits against the high cost, based on current evidence.

But Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said: “When assessing the cost-effectiveness of a treatment, NICE appraisal committees will take numerous factors into account.

“This enables them to determine the cost of using the drug to provide a year of the best quality of life available.”

The move has been criticised by the melanoma support group, Factor 50.

Gill Nuttall, chief executive and founder of Factor 50, said “This is another truly devastating blow to all melanoma patients and their families, many of whom are very young and with young families.

“Standard treatments that have been available since the 1970s are ineffective and to deny this drug to patients is tantamount to passing them a death sentence.

“I am astonished and deeply worried that NICE has not given approval to yet another drug which will significantly alter the lives of melanoma patients. The patients we represent have vowed that again, they will not take this decision lightly.”