NICE guidance recommends innovative funding scheme for Velcade

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has published final draft guidance on the use of the bone marrow cancer drug bortezomib, also known as Velcade.

NICE has recommended that the drug should be used for the treatment of multiple myeloma and has confirmed its support for an innovative funding scheme designed to optimise access to the drug.

The draft guidance follows a consultation which started in June. It sought opinions on a scheme whereby the NHS will provide funding for suitable patients with multiple myeloma, and the drug's manufacturer will then refund the cost of treatment in patients who show "no or minimal response".

The guidance states that Velcade "is recommended as an option for the treatment of progressive multiple myeloma in people who are at first relapse having received one prior therapy and who have undergone, or are unsuitable for, bone marrow transplantation".

Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE, commented: "The scheme will ensure that all patients suitable for treatment will get the chance to see if the drug works well for them, but that the NHS will only pay for the drug when it has been proven to work - this is a win-win solution for multiple myeloma patients and the NHS."

Cancer Research UK commended the innovative approach when it was first suggested. The charity's chief executive, Harpal Kumar, said: "It is essential that patients get access to treatments that will benefit them. Sadly issues of cost are accentuated where drugs only help some patients, especially if there is no way of knowing which patients are likely to benefit.

"We have recommended conditional approval of new drugs in our responses to consultations on the subjects of NICE and pharmaceutical pricing. The proposed refund scheme for Velcade fits well with this idea. Pharmaceutical companies with confidence in the new treatments they are developing should not be frightened of schemes aimed at pricing treatments according to their benefit," he added.

Final guidance is expected to be issued in September 2007 and, assuming there are no appeals against the recommendation, the drug will then be reviewed in 2010.