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Anger as life extending cancer drug rejected

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Life extending drug gets rejected by Scottish Medicines Consortium

A leading cancer charity has reacted angrily to news a life-extending breast cancer drug has been rejected for use in Scotland on cost grounds.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) said the drug Perjeta, which works together with the breast cancer drug Herceptin and stops the growth of a patient’s tumour for significantly longer than Herceptin on its own, was not cost effective for use on the NHS.

It comes just weeks after the SMC rejected the anti-cancer drug Kadcyla on similar grounds.

Breakthough Cancer Care said the decision was “unacceptable” with access to life-extending drugs becoming more of a problem in Scotland.

James Jopling, Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s director for Scotland, called the news a “cruel” blow to cancer patients.

“Women with breast cancer will still be reeling following the rejection of Kadcyla a few weeks ago, and now they have been hit with this devastating news,” he said.

“This is simply not acceptable. Women with secondary breast cancer urgently need these drugs; knowing they are available, and then being denied access to them is simply cruel.

“Access to drugs for people who really need them is an ongoing problem and Breakthrough is leading the call for a solution to be found. Thousands have joined our campaign for a fair price. We are determined to stop breast cancer for good, and making sure every woman receives the treatment she needs is the first step.

“It’s impossible to put a price on life’s precious moments but it’s not impossible to put a fair price on life-extending drugs.”

Simon Skinner from Bridge of Weir lost his wife Sue in October 2014 after a battle with secondary breast cancer.

While living in Ireland she received Perjeta as part of her cancer treatment.

“Sue was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer of the liver 17 months ago and during her treatment she received Perjeta,” he said.

“The results of this drug were dramatic – over a short space of time it reduced the size of my wife’s tumour.

“Importantly the side effects were minimal meaning that right up until the end Sue was fit and healthy, allowing her to get on with her normal, everyday life as much as possible.

“It was a very difficult and stressful time but Perjeta gave us reassurance that we were doing all we could to fight the disease.”

Women in Scotland may, in some cases, be able to access Perjeta via individual patient treatment requests made through their healthcare team, but these are carried out on a case by case basis.

Health secretary Alex Neil said: “The SMC’s decision will be disappointing for many, and like many patient groups I would encourage the drug’s manufacturer to make it available at a lower cost to enable more people to have it as a treatment option in future."