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NICE approves Pfizer's kidney cancer drug

NICE has approved Pfizer's Sutent as a kidney cancer first line treatment, but turned down Roche's Avastin, Bayer's Nexavar and Wyeth's Torisel

NICE has approved Pfizer's Sutent (sunitinib) as a first line treatment for kidney cancer, but has rejected it as a second line treatment where an initial therapy has failed. The body also turned down Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus), despite manufacturers Roche, Bayer and Wyeth agreeing to considerable price cuts to the NHS.

Although NICE acknowledged that the drugs do extend life by up to six months, it found that their benefits are too limited against the cost, despite the price adjustments. According to Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical director of NICE, "The evidence to support the use of the other first and second line treatments isn't strong enough to justify using NHS funds, which could be used for other cancer treatment programmes or in other treatment areas."

The decision has been challenged by several cancer charities, patient advocacy groups and members of the medical profession who express concern that patients who do not respond to Sutent will be left with very few treatment options.

John Melville, general manager of Roche UK, which manufacturers Avastin, has called the decision "illogical" and claims that the drug was turned down only because it is used in the treatment of other conditions. "This guidance goes against the spirit of end of life criteria," Melville said.

26th August 2009

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