We are extremely encouraged that the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has today (30th March) announced it is considering reappraising the pancreatic cancer drug Abraxane. We will be playing a full role in trying to make sure the drug is now looked at again as soon as possible, building on the work we have already done in partnership with so many supporters as part of our Two More Months campaign.
You can read a statement from our Chief Executive, Alex Ford, here.
We believe that this is an important announcement because, as the name of our campaign suggests, Abraxane, when used in combination with standard chemotherapy, has been shown in trials to extend the lives of patients by an average of just over two months, although in some cases significantly longer. More information about Abraxane can be found here.
Abraxane is currently available for eligible pancreatic cancer patients on the NHS in Scotland and Wales. It used to be available to patients in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund (the CDF) but was removed from the CDF list in November last year. In October last year, a separate initial assessment of the drug by NICE led to it not being recommended for patients through the NHS, due to it not being considered cost-effective enough. This means that Abraxane is no longer available to patients in England and, because Northern Ireland follows decisions by NICE, it is not available there either.
NICE had originally said they would not assess Abraxane again for three years, until October 2018, unless significant new evidence became available.
Despite the negative decisions by NICE and the CDF last year, we have continued to campaign alongside many others, in public and behind the scenes, to try and ensure Abraxane is finally made available to eligible patients across the whole of the UK. As part of our campaigning approach we concluded that:
We now believe the best way for Abraxane to be approved for use in England is for the drug manufacturer and NICE to work together to find a possible solution, with a new submission made for NICE to reappraise as a matter of urgency. See our Two More Months campaign here
Movement in the right direction
We are delighted that NICE and the manufacturer have been able to get together and move things forward towards that outcome.
The trigger for today’s announcement is that NICE recognises new evidence has come to light. Specifically, NICE has stated that the manufacturer of the drug, Celgene, has put forward a Patient Access Scheme (PAS) proposal. A PAS is basically a way to cut the price of a drug to the NHS. This means that whereas previously NICE rejected Abraxane because it did not meet its desired cost-benefit thresholds, the outcome of a new appraisal may be different. We understand there might also be updated trial or other data that might make it more likely Abraxane might be approved if it is assessed by NICE again.
Obviously we hope that NICE does review Abraxane again, that the review happens sooner rather than later and that the decision this time is a positive one leading to patients in England - and by extension Northern Ireland - being able to access a drug that is currently available in the rest of the UK. However, it is not a foregone conclusion that this will happen and so we will continue to campaign vigorously for that outcome.
The need for more treatments
This is because we continue to believe there is a basic clinical need for a new treatment of this kind for eligible pancreatic cancer patients. Unlike many other forms of the disease, treatment options available to those with pancreatic cancer are extremely limited and survival rates have barely changed in 40 years. Abraxane, when used in combination with standard chemotherapy, is one of the biggest advances in twenty years. It has the potential to benefit hundreds of patients and their families meaning more precious and valuable time together, just over two months on average but in many cases significantly longer.
We will be making a formal submission to NICE in due course, setting out our case in more detail for Abraxane to be reviewed again.
How can you help?
To help us make our response to NICE as evidence based as it can be, we are carrying out a survey, asking for the views, knowledge and experience of patients, or the family members of friends of patients, who have used Abraxane. This might have been through the NHS in Scotland or Wales; through the CDF in England before it was removed; or through private healthcare.
If you, or a family member or friend has been treated with Abraxane, we would really appreciate your input into the survey, which can be found here.
You can also read more about our Key to Survival campaign, which aims to make sure all pancreatic cancer patients in the UK have access to other new treatments on the NHS to help them survive longer.