Charities reacted with disappointment today after the health watchdog said it would not be recommending a lung cancer drug for use on the NHS.
The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) issued draft guidance saying it did not believe Tarceva (erlotinib) was the best use of resources in the care of sufferers of non-small cell lung cancer.
It said the drug would be reviewed again in February 2008.
Nice Chief Executive, Andrew Dillon, said: ‘After considering all the evidence available, as well as the comments received during consultation on the earlier draft, the independent appraisal committee concluded that erlotinib is not an effective use of NHS resources when compared with either docetaxel or best supportive care.
‘The Committee was also concerned that erlotinib would not be as effective as the existing standard treatment, docetaxel.
‘However, given the rapidly changing evidence base for erlotinib, the Committee advised that the guidance should be considered for early review. Therefore this guidance will be reviewed in February 2008.
‘The Committee also recommends that further research be undertaken into subgroups for whom erlotinib may provide greater benefit.’
Subject to an appeal being received, final guidance to the NHS is expected in April.
Nice issued earlier guidance in November saying it did not support the use of Tarceva or another drug Alimta.
Mike Unger, Chief Executive of The Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, said: ‘We are obviously severely disappointed and disillusioned with Nice’s decision not to approve Tarceva purely on economic grounds.
‘It’s the second blow that Nice has dealt to lung cancer patients in a month, following the announcement to decline Alimta – so there are now very few options left for lung cancer patients.
‘This leaves massive inconsistencies in treatment options for lung cancer patients in the UK.
“It’s absurd that Tarceva is available to certain patients in Scotland but not the rest of the UK. Tarceva is used as a standard treatment in many other European countries and this should be the case here.’
Christine Akilade, Senior Nurse at Cancerbackup, said: ‘Today’s decision by Nice is disappointing in that Tarceva provides another treatment option for people with non-small cell lung cancer.
‘It can give some patients with lung cancer extra time, which can be extremely valuable to patients and their families.
‘Until the Nice guidance is final, clinicians should continue to prescribe this treatment, as clearly stated by the Health Service Circular 1999/176.’
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