NICE recommends new lung cancer drug

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued final guidance recommending Tarceva (erlotinib) as a treatment for non-small cell lung cancer in England and Wales.

Tarceva is recommended as an alternative to docetaxel in patients who have already tried one chemotherapy drug and failed to respond.

NICE have agreed a funding arrangement with the drug's manufacturer, whereby Roche will ensure that the overall cost of treatment with Tarceva will cost no more than treatment with docetaxel, including administration, management of side-effects and monitoring.


However, Tarceva is not recommended for the second-line treatment of locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer in patients who do not benefit from docetaxel, or for third-line treatment after docetaxel.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director and executive lead for the guidance, commented: "The manufacturer of erlotinib, Roche Products Limited, proposed an arrangement making the drug available to the NHS in England and Wales on a discounted basis.

"The Department of Health in England and the Department of Health and Social Services in Wales have accepted this proposed arrangement and after consideration by the independent Appraisal Committee, erlotinib is recommended as an alternative to docetaxel as a second-line treatment option."

The professor noted that, because Tarceva is given in tablet form rather than intravenously, patients do not have to spend as long in hospital.

"This guidance is therefore good news for lung cancer patients who have already tried one chemotherapy regimen that has not worked," he said.

Harpal Kumar, Cancer Research UK's chief executive, said: "This new pricing arrangement between Roche and the Department of Health is very encouraging - it will finally enable patients with non-small cell lung cancer in England and Wales to receive Tarceva on the NHS.

"We hope that we are seeing the beginning of a new approach to price discussions with pharmaceutical companies. In future we would like to see a formal framework for these agreements so that the process can be speeded up. The faster these agreements can be made, the sooner patients can benefit."

Mr Kumar noted that, while Tarceva does not provide a cure, it can extend the lives of patients with non-small cell lung cancer and improve their symptoms.

"The drug has been used as a standard treatment in many other European countries including Scotland for a number of years, while patients in England and Wales have been left in limbo for nearly three years waiting for this decision," he noted.

"We hope that other pharmaceutical companies will also show confidence in the new treatments they are developing and consider adopting pricing schemes to enable NICE to recommend their treatments on the NHS."

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