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Cost of Breast Cancer Drug Reduced to Allow Continued Provision on the NHS

On 3 November 2015, the decision to take breast cancer drug Kadcyla off the list of drugs provided by the NHS was reversed. However, 13 other cancer drugs are still to be cut.

Cancer Drugs

What is Kadcyla?

Kadcyla, also known as Trastuzumab Emtansine, is a breast cancer drug that adds an average of six months to the life expectancy of women suffering from terminal breast cancer.

In August, the NHS announced that it was to stop prescribing Kadcyla due to the cost of the drug, despite its proven effects. Roche, the drug’s manufacturer, was criticised for charging approximately £90,000 per patient for Kadcyla, making it unaffordable to the NHS.

However, the decision was reversed recently after Roche agreed to drop the price of the drug for the NHS to an undisclosed amount. This means that the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) will continue to fund the breast cancer treatment, offering people suffering from breast cancer a potential extra six months of life.

What is the Cancer Drugs Fund?

The CDF was created in 2010 in order to help the NHS provide drugs which were not deemed cost- effective by the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (NICE).

The fund provides Government money to assist with the cost of these drugs. It originally launched at a cost of £200 million a year in 2011. The cost is expected to reach £340 million this year as a result of high demand.

Why Have the CDF Stopped Funding Some Treatments?

In a move to try and shrink the cost of the fund, the CDF has removed a further 13 drugs, despite the fact that many of them have been proven to offer a life-changing effect for those diagnosed with cancer. Of the drugs that the NHS is continuing to provide, many will not be offered as widely in a further drive to try save money.

But should it be up to the Government to decide which life-altering drugs are made available and which are not? As technology advances and further life-saving treatments are developed, it seems arbitrary for the Government to effectively be able to decide which treatments should be made available to cancer sufferers and which should be blocked due to financial constraints.

It seems reasonable to suggest that a different system could be put in place to determine which drugs are worthy of the money being spent on them, looking at the effect of the drug rather than the cost.

Why are Some Drugs so Expensive?

Our previous blog on this topic explained how the NHS is often charged more than other countries for the same drug. This can obviously have a detrimental effect on the lives of those living with cancer as they are not able to obtain the medication that other people are provided with in other parts of the world.

It is hoped that drug companies will continue to lower the prices of the drugs that they are providing to the NHS in order to ensure they are available to those suffering from various types of cancer. This drop in the price of Kadcycla is a welcome step in the right direction.

Helen Budge is a senior clinical negligence solicitor at Slater and Gordon in Manchester.

The Slater and Gordon clinical negligence team are widely experienced in handling claims related to delayed diagnosis and misdiagnosed cancer.

For a free consultation call our medical negligence solicitors on freephone 0800 916 9049 or start your claim online.