Campaigners have lost an appeal to make a bowel cancer drug available on the NHS, they said today.
Charities Cancerbackup and Bowel Cancer UK appealed against a decision by the health watchdog to reject the drug Erbitux (cetuximab) for use on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) ruled last August that Erbitux and another drug, Avastin (bevacizumab), were not cost-effective.
A separate appeal by manufacturer Merck also failed.
Bowel cancer is the third most common cancer in the UK, with 35,000 people newly-diagnosed every year.
Around 16,000 people die from it every year and more than half of new cases reach the advanced stage, which Erbitux is designed to treat.
The drug, which costs around £700 a week, has been shown to shrink tumours, allowing the possibility of surgery, but is not a cure.
Campaigners branded the Nice decision ironic, given that British scientists led the way in Erbitux clinical trials.
Ian Beaumont, from Bowel Cancer UK, said today: ‘This decision demonstrates Nice’s continued indifference to people living with advanced bowel cancer.
‘No one should be in any doubt that the basis for it is financial and bears no relation to the efficacy of the drug, which is well proven.
‘Erbitux offers hope to patients when other treatments have failed and Nice is taking away that hope.
‘Whilst we are naturally disappointed, we will continue to campaign for this and other valuable treatments, which enable many thousands of people with bowel cancer to live longer and have an improved quality of life.’
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