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Roche: Scotland must improve cancer drug access

Pharma company's call comes as SMC decides not to recommend Avastin in ovarian cancer

Roche has called for the Scottish government to do more to improve access to cancer drugs after the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) refused to recommend Avastin as a treatment for women with advanced ovarian cancer.

The Swiss pharma company said the country was falling behind its English neighbour, which introduced a cancer drugs fund in April 2011 to provide £200m a year to pay for cancer medicines not recommended by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

“In Scotland, almost no patients have access [to Avastin],” said John Melville, general manager, Roche UK.

“The Scottish government must act to prevent Scotland falling further behind England in access to innovative cancer drugs that address an unmet medical need and clearly benefit patients, or face a negative impact on clinical research as well as increasing difficulties in recruiting and retaining the best clinicians.”

Between April 2011 and March 2012, more than 10,000 requests were made by doctors to the cancer drugs fund in England to pay for cancer treatments not recommended for mainstream NHS use by NICE after the Institute either deemed them not cost-effective or had yet to issue final guidance.

Of these applications, 24.8 per cent (about 2,677) were for Roche's Avastin (bevacizumab), which NICE has turned down in several cancer indications, deciding the drug's benefits were not be enough to justify its high cost.

Roche has faced similar problems trying to persuade the SMC to back Avastin for mainstream use in the NHS in Scotland. Most recently the agency said Roche's “justification of the treatment's cost in relation to its health benefits was not sufficient” when it came to the drug's use in advanced ovarian cancer.

The SMC also criticised Roche, saying it ”did not present a sufficiently robust economic analysis to gain acceptance”.

However, Avastin was backed by some clinicians, including Dr Nicholas Reed, consultant in clinical oncology at the Beatson Oncology Centre, who said: “The negative decision from the SMC and the lack of a cancer drugs fund in Scotland deprives our patients of a clinically active and effective drug.”

9th October 2012

From: Sales, Regulatory

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