Patients won’t get vital cancer drug on NHS

The first breakthrough drug for pancreatic cancer in 20 years will not be routinely available on the NHS.

Hundreds of patients with advanced disease will be denied Abraxane, which extends life by two months when there are virtually no other options.

Campaigners said draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the rationing watchdog for England, that the drug was not cost effective would leave patients in despair.

Ali Stunt, founder and chief executive of the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action, said: ‘We are outraged by the decision.

“This is the first time NICE has looked at an effective treatment for the disease since 2001 and they have rejected it.

“There is real disparity between survival rates here, which have been unchanged for 40 years, and elsewhere in Europe, where patients survive twice as long.’

About 8,000 Britons are diagnosed annually with pancreatic cancer, which kills four in five sufferers within a year.

Tumours are hard to detect because the pancreas is buried deep in the body so symptoms emerge when the disease is at an advanced stage. An average course of treatment with the drug costs £5000.

Trial data shows that Abraxane and chemotherapy increases average survival by two months, but also increases the number of patients alive after two years.

Although NICE  says Abraxane should not be routinely prescribed on the NHS, it is currently available through the Cancer Drugs Fund in England Рbut the drug could also be axed from this fund as part of a cost-cutting review.

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE chief executive, said Abraxane was more effective than one of the treatment options currently available, but was more expensive.

“Its like putting the latest treatments in an archive”