In December 2016 the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) decided that the price of the breast cancer drug Kadcyla was too high in relation to the benefits it gives for it to be recommended for routine commissioning in the NHS. This decision was deeply disappointing for many patients and their families. A related online petition has been signed by more than 115,000 people which demonstrates the strength of feeling on this issue.
NICE has held a consultation of its draft guidance and is expected to make a decision this month (February) with final guidance being published in March.
Kadcyla will continue to be available through the Cancer Drugs Fund while the NICE appraisal continues. The introduction of the Cancer Drugs Fund has helped to bring life extending treatments to thousands of patients every year. There is no doubt that it has improved access to medicines and addressed some of the historic issues relating to treatment access. However, it was meant to be a temporary fix.
Thanks to the campaigning work of to Breast Cancer Now, the issue of access to Kadcyla and other breast cancer drugs was raised in Parliament on January 26.
The debate highlighted that the current funding of drugs is becoming based on the cost-effectiveness of a drug, rather than the clinical need, and this should not be the final deciding factor as it disregards very personal reasons for many people who rely upon drug treatments.
I believe that we now need a top-to-bottom reform of NICE to ensure that drug acceptance and funding is determined solely by clinical need, not with cost or value considerations.