Azara Blog: Campaigners want to fast-track yet another breast cancer drug

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Date published: 2005/12/29

The BBC says:

Campaigners have called for a fast-track assessment of a new breast cancer drug which may help save lives.

A global study found Femara (letrozole) was of most benefit to women at highest risk of the cancer returning, the New England Journal of Medicine reported.

In women whose cancer had spread to the lymph nodes, the drug cut the risk of a recurrence of disease by 29% compared to 'gold standard' tamoxifen treatment.

The study involved 8,000 women, including more than 400 from the UK.

The findings contributed to a decision earlier this month by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) to approve a licence for the use of the drug for postmenopausal women with early breast cancer straight after surgery.

However, the NHS drug watchdog is not due to rule on whether the drug should be made widely available until late next year.
There has been concern recently that cancer patients in some areas are being denied access to the newest drugs because of financial concerns of NHS trusts.

This has led some to take legal action to make their health authority fund the treatment.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) is due to rule on the use of aromatase inhibitors by the NHS next autumn. However, pressure is building for the process to be speeded up.

Well if the general idea is to give NICE more resources so that it can make faster decisions about all drugs, then that is fine. But the idea instead seems to be to bounce NICE into pushing some drugs (and breast cancer drugs seem to be flavour of the minute) up the priority list, which presumably means that others have to be delayed. Perhaps the BBC should tell us which other drugs should have their approval delayed in order that Femara should be approved more quickly. Unfortunately the chattering classes (including the BBC) that run Britain seem to believe that there are no financial constraints in the world, and that anybody who can attract the attention of the media should be given special priority, at the expense of others.

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