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Green light for treatment gives patients in England the chance to live for longer

Posted by: Comms 4 August 2017

In a landmark decision, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today announced it will allow advanced pancreatic cancer patients in England access to the life-extending treatment, Abraxane, on the NHS. The treatment has not been routinely available to patients in England for almost two years.

Patients who are eligible for Abraxane will have been diagnosed too late for surgery, the only treatment for the disease which can save lives, to be an option. Today’s decision is groundbreaking news for those patients, who will only live for up to six months on average after diagnosis, and have very few treatment options. This treatment could give hundreds of eligible advanced patients the chance to live for another two months, and often much longer.

This treatment, which is given to patients combined with standard chemotherapy, is already available to patients in Wales and Scotland.

NICE has overturned its rejection of the treatment for NHS use in October 2015, after a revised agreement on the price of the drug, and more comprehensive evidence about its impact on patients' quality of life.

Our Chief Executive, Alex Ford, said: “Today we are celebrating, after years of campaigning alongside patients, families and other charities for this treatment to be made available across the UK on the NHS. This landmark decision will give eligible advanced patients the chance of living two months longer after diagnosis, which for many patients will mean that they live for twice as long.  

“We are so delighted that finally, eligible patients in England will have the chance to spend precious extra time with their loved ones. We are incredibly proud that we’ve been able to help ensure another potential treatment is available, and now urge the NHS in Northern Ireland to take heed and consider making the treatment routinely available there too.”

Abraxane was made available on the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) in March 2014 and was accessed by more than 500 people with advanced pancreatic cancer in England. In September 2015, NHS England announced that it was removing Abraxane from the CDF list of approved drugs.

A month later, NICE rejected Abraxane for long-term use on the NHS in England for people with advanced pancreatic cancer, stating it did not find the treatment to be cost effective. NICE then announced in May 2016 that it would bring forward the reappraisal of the treatment, which was originally scheduled for 2018. As a result, for close to two years patients in England have been unable to routinely access Abraxane on the NHS.

Abraxane is one of very few new treatments for advanced pancreatic cancer which can allow patients to live longer. Pancreatic cancer has the worst survival rate of the 20 most common cancers, with 80 per cent of patients diagnosed at an advanced stage.

For further information on pancreatic cancer and Abraxane, visit pancreaticcancer.org.uk/abraxane

Note: This recent NICE decision only affects people in England and not anyone accessing the drug privately or in Scotland and Wales. If you are affected by advanced pancreatic cancer and you have questions about Abraxane you can contact our specialist nurses on the charity's free Support Line on Freeephone 0808 801 0707 or nurse@pancreaticcancer.org.uk

Source: Cancer Research UK

  • Pancreatic cancer research has historically been underfunded. The disease attracts just 1.9 per cent of the UK cancer research budget per year.

Source: NCRI 2015/2016