The Institute of Cancer Research, London, has expressed disappointment that the breast cancer drug palbociclib will not be made available to patients and is calling for urgent discussions to reduce the price of the drug.
The ICR, with its partner The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, led a major clinical trial of palbociclib. Dr Nicholas Turner, who was one of the clinical experts on the NICE panel, led the PALOMA-3 trial, which assessed a combination of palbociclib and the hormone drug fulvestrant.
Dr Nicholas Turner, Team Leader in Molecular Oncology at the ICR and Consultant Medical Oncologist at The Royal Marsden, said: “Palbociclib is one of the most important advances in treating the most common type of breast cancer in 20 years. Clinical trials show the drug can substantially slow the progression of the disease and help delay chemotherapy, which often has life-limiting side-effects.
“It is very disappointing that palbociclib is not being made available to patients, but cost is the limiting factor. If the manufacturer, NICE and NHS England can find a way of making this treatment available for patients, they will substantially improve the lives of patients with breast cancer.”
Professor Paul Workman, Chief Executive of the ICR, said: “We’re seeing many innovative new treatments for cancer showing clear benefit to patients in clinical trials, but unfortunately they are often proving just too expensive for health systems like the NHS to afford.
“Rapid action is needed to ensure that exciting new treatments like palbociclib are priced at a level that allows them to be judged cost-effective. In the short term that means urgent discussions to get the price of palbociclib down. In the long term it will require large-scale changes to the whole system of creating new cancer treatments, to reduce the cost of drug development and ensure savings are passed on to the NHS. People with cancer must be able to benefit from the academic research that helps lead to effective new treatments like this, which extend survival and improve quality of life.”