NICE improves access to life-extending cancer drugs

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has issued new guidelines which should improve access to life-extending drugs for people dying from cancer.

NICE appraisal committees will follow the new guidelines, which were drawn up following a public consultation, when reviewing treatments which may extend the lives of patients who are terminally ill.

The guidelines cover drugs which would normally be deemed too expensive for standard NHS use and which are licensed for a terminal illness affecting a small number of patients with less than two years to live.


The drugs will have to meet set criteria in order to be approved for NHS use, including being shown to extend life by at least three months compared with standard NHS treatment.

Experts estimate that some 10,000 cancer patients a year could benefit from the move.

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon commented: "These treatments are expensive and clinical experience will be limited, therefore if one of these kinds of treatments is recommended, the institute will normally recommend to the Department of Health that a data collection exercise is considered.

"This exercise will assess the extent to which the anticipated survival gains are realised when they are used in routine practice. The outcome of the exercise will be evaluated when the guidance for that treatment is reviewed."

Hilary Jackson, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, said: "This additional guidance from NICE is excellent news for cancer patients. Introducing flexibility into NICE's appraisal system should mean that more life-extending cancer drugs can be prescribed to terminally ill patients on the NHS.

"These changes are specifically targeted towards people who could gain crucial extra weeks or months of life."

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