Commenting on today’s rejection of olaparib for women with BRCA mutated ovarian cancer in draft guidance from NICE, Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of The Institute of Cancer Research, London, which carried out 20 years of research underpinning the development of olaparib, said:
“We are very disappointed that women will not have access to this innovative drug through the NHS. The evidence of olaparib’s benefit in women with BRCA positive ovarian tumours is very clear, and this frustrating delay will prevent around 450 women each year from being able to access a beneficial treatment.
“This decision highlights how the current system of drug evaluation and pricing needs reform – in particular to reward the development of innovative drugs that address unmet need in cancer treatment, and which have additional, further potential.
“Olaparib, a PARP inhibitor, is the first cancer drug to be approved that is directed against an inherited genetic mutation. Its development was underpinned by research carried out by scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and represents a real scientific breakthrough.
“We are pleased that NICE considered earlier phase II trial data as part of this appraisal, as opposed to waiting for the results of larger phase III trials which may take many years. But we’d like to see NICE going further and having the flexibility to approve drugs before overall survival data are available. In return, we’d like to see pharmaceutical companies playing their part – for example by cutting the initial prices of drugs during this period, with prices rising later as benefits are shown in more patients. Such a flexible approach to licensing would allow patients to benefit earlier, reward innovation and at the same time be affordable.
“Larger clinical trials are ongoing, and we are confident in the longer term that drugs like olaparib will become available for subgroups of women with ovarian cancer – and ultimately patients with other cancers too.
“We are especially disappointed because this innovative medicine is based on breakthrough scientific research in UK that involved a creative partnership between academia, biotech and pharma and also with funders.”