NICE rejects life-extending breast cancer drug lapatinib

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has confirmed that it does not intend to recommend the drug lapatinib - also known as Tyverb - for use in women who have already been treated for advanced breast cancer.

Lapatinib works in a similar way to 'targeted' breast cancer drug trastuzumab (Herceptin).

But following its second review of the drug, NICE says that the current cost of the drug means that lapatinib is "not a cost-effective use of NHS resources".

It values lapatinib at over £59,000 per 'quality adjusted life year' - a measure that takes into account the quality - as well as the length - of a treatment's benefit.

In light of this, and trial data suggesting that it only extends life by an average of 2.4 months, the institute said that lapatinib is "not recommended" for the routine treatment of women with advanced breast cancer, even if they are no longer responding to Herceptin.

Gillian Leng, deputy chief executive of NICE, commented: "The appraisal committee considered the updated economic evaluation presented by the manufacturer but was not persuaded that the adjusted estimates of overall survival presented were robust."

Manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) said that around 2,000 women could benefit from the drug each year in Britain, but could now be denied access as a result of the ruling.

Hilary Tovey, Cancer Research UK's policy manager, said: "We are disappointed that NICE and GSK have again failed to agree that lapatinib should be made available on the NHS.

"Cancer Research UK is supporting clinical trials looking at whether lapatinib is more effective than other treatments for some women with breast cancer. We hope the results of these trials will provide better evidence to support the introduction of lapatinib on the NHS in the future," she revealed.

"NICE has now asked for feedback from the manufacturers, doctors and patient groups on their decision before it is finalised. If it is, then it will be up to local providers, on advice from individual doctors, to decide whether they will pay for patients who are most likely to benefit from the drug.

"These decisions must be made quickly and transparently so that patients and their doctors can be sure they are all getting the same access to these treatments, regardless of where they live."