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Charity campaigns for life-extending cancer drug

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A new campaign is urging the Scottish Medicines Consortium to approve a life-extending treatment for breast cancer despite the cost

A cancer charity has launched a campaign to get a new drug approved in Scotland that can extend terminally ill patients’ lives by six months.

Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s campaign is backed by Scottish oncologist Dr Iain Macpherson from the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer centre.

The campaign comes just weeks after the drug was turned down for use south of the border.

This medicine is truly groundbreaking, offering a real beacon of hope for women with secondary breast cancer

The charity argues that changes to the system for drug approval should mean that the drug Kadcyla, the first breast cancer medication of its type, should be approved by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). It says the drug offers a significantly better treatment for women with secondary, incurable breast cancer.

In trials, the drug, which carries chemotherapy directly into the cancer cells while sparing healthy cells, extends womens’ lives by an average of 5.8 months. According to Macpherson, some women in Scotland have been taking the treatment for around a year.

James Jopling, director for Scotland at Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said: “This medicine is truly groundbreaking, offering a real beacon of hope for women with secondary breast cancer. From speaking to women who receive this drug in clinical trials, it has made an incredible difference. It has given many extra months of life where the outlook was previously bleak and has given women their life back which is so important at this stage of the disease.”

Because of the way the drug works, side effects usually associated with chemotherapy, including nausea, hair loss and weakened immune systems are also minimised.

Lynda Luke, 45 from Edinburgh, was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in August last year.

“It’s not just about the extra six months, it’s about the added quality of life these drugs can give. My daughter is pregnant and six months extra time with her could make a huge difference and mean the world to us both, and if I had that opportunity I’d grasp it with two hands.”

The reformed approval system gives an enhanced role for the voice of patients, placing more weight on the wider value and benefit offered by end-of-life medicines.

Breakthrough is leading the call in Scotland for Kadcyla to be approved by harnessing the views of women with secondary breast cancer so the strongest possible case can be made for its approval.

In the past 12 months, the SMC has already rejected two highly effective secondary breast cancer drugs. Last month, Kadcyla was initially rejected by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) for use on the NHS in England. The price, as assessed by Nice, for Kadcyla is £5,908 per month. It has been estimated that an average course of treatment costs more than £90,000.

Kadcyla has now been submitted to the SMC for review and a decision is expected to be made in the autumn. Join the Breakthrough campaign on access to medicines.

 

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