A MEDICINE which could extend the lives of women with ovarian cancer has been accepted for routine use on the Scottish NHS for the first time.
Campaigners have hailed the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s (SMC) decision to approve bevacizumab for patients with recurrent ovarian cancer resistant to a form of chemotherapy.
These patients traditionally face a poor prognosis, few therapeutic options and the possibility of relapsing or even death after treatment.
Studies found the treatment, known as Avastin, increased survival rates by up to six months among these patients. The SMC announcement yesterday marks the first time the drug has been approved for routine use anywhere in the UK, as it is only available to patients in initial stages of treatment in England.
Treatments for blood cancer and hepatitis C were also given the go ahead but drugs to treat erectile disfunction and an inherited metabolic disease known as Morquio A syndrome, were deemed too expensive.
Professor Nick Reed, consultant clinical oncologist at the Beatson West of Scotland Cancer Centre (BWoSCC) in Glasgow, said: “The treatment of platinum-resistant ovarian cancer is one of the most challenging conditions in managing gynaecological cancers. The exciting announcement from SMC that will allow the use of Avastin in platinum-resistant ovarian cancer is a most welcome and positive development and will allow women in Scotland access to a previously unavailable drug.
“Until now the options for this group of patients have been very limited and generally of low effectiveness. This is a positive development.”
Around 615 Scottish women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year.
In 2011, ovarian cancer was the sixth most frequently diagnosed cancer in women, representing nearly 4 per cent of all newly diagnosed cancers in Scotland.
“We applaud the SMC for ensuring that patients with platinum-resistant ovarian cancer, the most difficult type to treat, will have access to Avastin in Scotland,” said Katherine Taylor, chief executive of charity Ovarian Cancer Action.
She added: “All women living with all types of ovarian cancer deserve the right to have access to effective, proven treatments. We strongly urge NHS England to make this treatment available to all of the patients who so desperately need it.”
SMC officials also approved a drug to treat the abnormal growth condition acromegaly – known as pasireotide or signifor – through its patient and clinician engagement (Pace) process, which aims to improve access to end-of-life medicines and rare diseases.
Professor Jonathan Fox, chairman of SMC, said: “The committee is pleased to be able to accept these medicines for routine use by NHS Scotland, two of which were considered through our Pace process.
“We know that patients will welcome the advice on bevacizumab for ovarian cancer and pasireotide for acromegaly.
“This brings the number of medicines so far accepted under the Pace process to 19, and a year on from our first Pace meeting, we are confident that patients and clinicians are seeing the benefits of increased access to effective new medicines.”
He admitted he was “disappointed” not to be able to recommend elosulfase alfa for routine use among Morquio A patients as sufferers and clinicians had given a “powerful testimony” about the impact of this condition.
Other drugs approved by the SMC were aflibercept, which is used to treat impaired vision caused by the swelling of veins in the eye, sitagliptin to help control diabetes, and lisdexamfetamine dimesylate to treat adult attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.