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NICE Rethink over lung cancer drug Tarceva

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By Nic Fleming, Medical Correspondent, Telegraph UK

Last Updated: 2:30am BST 02/10/2007

Lung cancer sufferers could be given access to a treatment believed to extend life expectancy after the Government's health watchdog agreed to review a previous decision to deny NHS patients the drug.

Tarceva is a once-daily tablet designed to treat non-small cell lung cancer – the most common form of the disease – if initial attempts to treat it with chemotherapy fail.

Trials suggest patients on the drug were 40 per cent more likely to survive for at least a year after treatment compared to placebo, and that 15 per cent of patients using the drug survived beyond two years.

The National Institute for health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) ruled in March that Tarceva, which costs £1,600 per month or £6,800 for a typical course of treatment, was not cost-effective compared to the existing treatment docetaxel.

But an appeal was lodged by charities Cancerbackup and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation, the Royal College of Physicians, the Association of Cancer Physicians and Roche, which makes the drug.

The organisations argued that Nice had failed to take into account potential cost savings linked with a reduction in side effects for patients on Tarceva as opposed to docetaxel.

A final decision for England and Wales will be made next year. Nice's Scottish equivalent has already ruled in favour of the drug.

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