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Cancer drug approved for use by NHS

Nov 14 2007 by Jane Picken, Evening Chronicle

CANCER sufferers are celebrating after the green light was given for a wonder drug to be made available on the NHS.

It is thought Tarceva, also known as Erlotinib, will provide hope to people suffering from lung cancer but unable to afford its high costs privately.

Over the past year the Chronicle has told how Tarceva has proved to be a wonder drug for 55-year-old father-of-three Jimmy Jenkyns, from South Shields.

Scans have shown the drug has shrunk the tumours on his lungs and has allowed him to lead a relatively normal life running his cleaning business with wife Deanne.

But the dad was forced to pay for the drug privately until South Tyneside Primary Care Trust agreed to fund two rounds of the drug after a bitter battle.

Now Jimmy and other lung cancer patients wanting Tarceva will be able to get it free on the NHS.

“This decision is excellent and it’s what we’ve been waiting and hoping for all this time,” said Jimmy, who has been taking Tarceva on and off since April.

“It’s been a wonder drug for me. Everyone is different so it might not work for all patients, but they will not know unless they are given a chance to try it.”

The decision, by North East and Cumbria Cancer Drug Approvals Group, comes after a reduction in the cost of Tarceva and is pending final guidance from the National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

Doctors and senior health managers all agreed the drug could be used when a patient has stopped responding to their initial treatment for non-small cell lung cancer.

Steve Williamson, consultant pharmacist in cancer services, said: “We’re very pleased to be able to offer Tarceva as a treatment for patients with lung cancer.

“It offers a good alternative to the existing chemotherapy treatment, has less toxic side-effects and is much more convenient for patients as it is taken as one daily tablet, reducing the time spent in hospital having treatment.”

Manufacturers of the drug, Roche Pharmaceuticals, responded to a request to lower its price, meaning the scientific evidence could be reviewed.

This decision now offers patients and their consultants a choice of treatment after an initial chemotherapy treatment for lung cancer.

Last year a request for the drug for use as a second or third palliative treatment for patients whose initial treatment had failed was turned down by the North East and Cumbria Cancer Drug Approvals Group, which is part of the North of England Cancer Network.

At that time, NICE had issued draft guidance which advised that there was no evidence of the drug’s cost-effectiveness as a second treatment and therefore the North East Drugs Group could not approve it for use.

The drug is not approved for use when two previous different chemotherapy regimes have failed.

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