Kadcyla is a drug used for patients with advanced breast cancer that has spread and cannot be removed surgically. Although the drug has been shown to extend the life of these patients by around six months, its use has been subject to scrutiny by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which issues guidelines on which drugs the NHS offers patients. While NICE’s recommendations are based on a number of factors, the main determining factors are the cost and likely benefit of any drug.
At around £90,000 per patient, Kadcyla is expensive. There are ongoing negotiations between Roche, Kadcyla’s manufacturer, and the Government to agree a price but latest reports suggest that NICE is unlikely to approve the drug at its current price - particularly as it only results in a six-month increase in life expectancy.
The drug is available in some cases under the specially created Cancer Drugs Fund, set up by the Government in 2013 to enable patients to access drugs that would not otherwise be available on the NHS. The fund is operated by NHS England which is reported to have secured significant price discounts from Roche to enable it to offer Kadcyla.
Women in England may thus be able to obtain the drug, although the current Cancer Drugs Fund is due to end in March 2016.
Andrew Clayton, a member of Penningtons Manches’ clinical negligence team, says: “It has to be right that the NHS takes a rigorous approach to evaluating the clinical benefit of drugs against the prescribing costs. But it is difficult for patients to understand why some in the UK are allowed access to Kadcyla while others are denied it. This lack of equality and clarity needs addressing urgently for patients who already have to contend with a dreadful outlook.”