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County cancer patient calls for drug to be on NHS

By This is Gloucestershire  |  Posted: August 25, 2010

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CANCER patient Norman Snell has criticised a health watchdog's refusal to recommend a bowel cancer drug for use on the NHS.

Avastin can help patients with advanced bowel cancer which has spread to other organs.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) says the cost of the drug is too high for the extra benefit it gives patients.

Mr Snell, who was diagnosed with bowel cancer in 2008 and was treated at Cheltenham General Hospital, says sufferers should not be deprived.

The 68-year-old, who is hoping a recent scan comes back clear, said: "You can't put a price on life. I'm hoping and praying that I'm clear now.

"Other people should have every chance there is. If it's humanly possible I think they should have it. I don't think anyone should be deprived."

Avastin costs almost £21,000 per patient and an estimated 6,500 people per year could be eligible for the drug.

Clinical data submitted by the manufacturer Roche to Nice shows it can typically offer patients an extra six weeks of life when added to the chemotherapy drugs capecitabine and oxaliplatin.

Mr Snell, from Cinderford, believes it's worth giving people the opportunity to take the drug.

The retired prison officer, said: "Life is so important and valuable. People want to live as long as they possibly can for different reasons – like grandchildren. Sometimes it might be for more than six weeks."

Data also suggests the trio of drugs means 78 per cent of patients see their liver tumours shrink to such a degree they are eligible for potentially life-saving surgery.

The latest guidance from Nice is subject to consultation and appeal.

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of the health watchdog, said: "We have recommended several treatments for various stages of colorectal cancer, including cetuximab for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer.

"We are disappointed not to be able to recommend bevacizumab (Avastin) as well but we have to be confident that the benefits justify the considerable cost of this drug."

An original patient access scheme proposed by Roche would have seen Avastin cost the NHS about £20,800 per patient for one year, with any subsequent treatment free of charge.

The cost of oxaliplatin would also be reimbursed by Roche.

The latest scheme would have included all these elements plus an upfront payment to the NHS for each patient treated.

But Nice said it thought the costs of administering the drug would be higher than Roche proposed and there were doubts about the overall cost-effectiveness.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said it understood patients would find the announcement disappointing but it was subject to consultation.

He said: "We have already announced an additional £50 million of funding to be available from October, ahead of the 2011 Cancer Drugs Fund.

"This will help thousands of patients access cancer drugs recommended by their doctors.

"We respect the expert independence of Nice and their role is vitally important to the NHS and the Government. As set out in the White Paper, Nice remains at the heart of our plans for liberating the NHS, including significant expansion of its role on quality standards."


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    Gloucester Gloucester, Glos  |  August 25 2010, 7:28PM

    If there's a drug out there that helps people it should be available to them my grandad died last may from lung cancer he had these tablets from Scotland but he had to pay for them as they weren't available on the nhs only private luckily for him he could afford them unlike some people who can't it's completeley wrong in my eyes if you can help someone you should I hope, mr snell I hope everything goes ok for you life is precious your right my grandad lived for 4 years longer than what was exspected if you want something hard enough nothings impossible