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Anger at NICE 'no' to life-extending drug Araxane

Posted by: Policy and campaigning 9 September 2014

Pancreatic Cancer UK has expressed its anger about a provisional recommendation by NICE to refuse to add the drug, Abraxane, to its list of approved drugs for use in metastatic pancreatic cancer patients in England as a first line treatment.

Abraxane, in combination with standard chemotherapy drug gemcitabine, has been shown in trials to extend life by an average of just over two months, and in some cases, to over two years. Stakeholders have until 30th September to challenge the NICE recommendation but, if it is upheld, it will mean many advanced pancreatic cancer patients may miss out on this life-extending treatment. Final NICE guidance will be issued on 14th October.

By contrast, Abraxane was recently recommended for use in Wales, by the All Wales Medicines Strategy Group, at a meeting held on 3rd September. It is now awaiting sign-off from the Welsh Health Minister.

In March this year, Abraxane was added to the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) list in England for advanced pancreatic cancer patients.  In order to access Abraxane via the CDF, doctors must apply for the drug on behalf of eligible patients. The CDF is only funded until 2016 and drugs can be 'de-listed' at any time so NICE approval of Abraxane is needed to guarantee future patients to benefit from this life-extending treatment. 

Pancreatic cancer is the fifth biggest cancer killer in the UK. Every day, 24 people are diagnosed with the disease and they currently face just a three per cent chance of survival, the lowest survival rate of all 21 common cancers.  Chronic late diagnosis results in many patients being diagnosed at a point when the cancer has spread to other parts of their body. 

Alex Ford, Chief Executive of Pancreatic Cancer UK, said:

"We are extremely disappointed by, and angry at, this recommendation. It is particularly galling that NICE have refused to consider Abraxane under their End of Life Criteria, given the extremely poor prognosis for pancreatic cancer patients who, on average, only live 2-6 months from diagnosis. There are currently very limited treatment options available and Abraxane is needed to allow more patients to benefit from life extending treatment. We urge NICE to reverse their recommendation and allow Abraxane to be routinely accessed by eligible patients in England."