Experts approve new cancer drug for Scotland

The SMC approved a total of four new medicines for use on the NHS at its latest meeting. Picture: TSPL

The SMC approved a total of four new medicines for use on the NHS at its latest meeting. Picture: TSPL

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SCOTLAND has become the first part of the UK to make a new drug available to patients with a rare form of cancer.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) used procedures aimed at improving treatment for those patients nearing the end of their life and those those with rare conditions to approve the drug bosutinib for sufferers of chronic myelogenous leukaemia (CML).

Sine 600 people a year in the UK are diagnosed with the condition each year, and have just a 40 per cent chance of surviving the next five years.

In 2012, 60 people in Scotland were diagnosed with the disease, the highest number since 2007.

Patients in Wales and Northern Ireland have to prove “exceptional circumstances” to be considered for bosutinib, which is also known as Bosulif.

In England, some patients have been able to get the treatment thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, but manufacturer Pfizer fears changes to this mean in the future it may no longer be available.

The drugs company is now calling on the UK Government to find a “fair and sustainable solution” to access to such treatments.

Ben Osborn, Head of Pfizer Oncology UK, said: “We believe that the recent changes to the Scottish Medicines Consortium are a step in the right direction in improving access to oncology treatments, such as bosutinib.

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“However, elsewhere in the UK cancer patients are still being denied access to innovative medicines. Government needs to give a clear signal for Nice reform and act immediately to ensure a fair and sustainable solution to allow greater access to innovative medicines for patients.”

Professor Mhairi Copland of Glasgow University said the SMC decision provided a new treatment option for CML patients “whose current therapies are no longer working or are causing significant side effects”.

She added: “The comprehensive and pragmatic approach of the SMC in evaluating treatment, including consultation with expert clinicians and patient groups, is beginning to pay dividends for patients in Scotland.”

David Ryner, chair/trustee of the CML Support Group, said: “This decision is fantastic news for eligible patients with chronic myeloid leukaemia in Scotland.

“The addition of the Patient and Clinical Engagement (PACE) group by the Scottish Medicines Consortium means that patients and clinicians now have more of a voice in these decisions and that can only be a positive thing in improving access to medicines for Scottish patients.”

The SMC approved a total of four new medicines for use on the NHS at its latest meeting, including the drug Abraxane as a new treatment for pancreatic cancer.

Professor Jeff Evans, Professor of Translational Cancer Research at the University of Glasgow, welcomed this and said: “Pancreatic cancer has extremely low survival rates as the majority of patients are diagnosed at an advanced stage.

“Abraxane has shown that it is able to increase survival for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer and now sufferers of the disease in Scotland will be able to benefit from this treatment.”

But the SMC did not recommend abiraterone - the drug which reportedly helped keep the Lockerbie bomber Abdelbaset al-Megrahi alive - for prostate cancer sufferers who have not yet had chemotherapy.

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SMC chairman Professor Jonathan Fox said: “While patient groups and clinicians spoke strongly in support of early use of abiraterone, after considering all the available evidence and applying as much flexibility as we could, the committee was unable to accept it.

“We realise this decision will disappoint patients and clinicians alike, but SMC has to consider clinical and cost effectiveness in making its decisions. In doing this, we have to take account of the needs of all patients in Scotland, not just those who would benefit from the medicine under consideration.”

He stated: “We have made substantial changes to SMC processes in the past year and we have been clear since the outset that we would need to review the impact of these changes on patient access to new medicines and public understanding of what SMC does.

“We have been gathering regular feedback from public observers and patients groups, most of which has been very positive, and we plan to formally review this. We are committed to continuously improving how SMC works.”

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