Women to get 'gold standard' breast cancer drugs on NHS


femaraThousands of women with early stage breast cancer will have access to new "gold standard" treatments on the NHS from next week.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice), the Government's rationing watchdog, will publish guidance on Wednesday instructing local health care trusts to fund provision of three drugs called aromatase inhibitors.

Anastrozole (sold as Arimidex), letrozole (Femara) and exemestane (Aromasin) have been shown significantly to reduce the risk of the disease returning and improve survival in post-menopausal women whose cancers are fuelled by the female hormone oestrogen.

They will replace tamoxifen, which for more than 20 years has been the preferred treatment for women with this common form of cancer.

About four in five of the 41,000 diagnosed with breast cancer each year have passed the menopause and 70 per cent of these have cancers that are fed by oestrogen.

Therefore some 23,000 newly diagnosed women a year could benefit from treatment with the new drugs.

A spokesman for Nice told The Daily Telegraph that no appeals had been received following positive final appraisal determination in August — meaning the drugs are certain to get the go-ahead on Wednesday.

Joanne Rule, the chief executive of the charity Cancerbackup, said: "We look forward to the publication of Nice's positive guidance on aromatase inhibitors, which is good news. This group of drugs adds another important treatment and the guidance gives clarity to primary care trusts making it clear that it should be funded."

British women have a one in nine chance of developing breast cancer. Tamoxifen is credited with helping more than 20,000 survive since the 1980s and doctors believe aromatase inhibitors could save even more lives.

Some patients have already persuaded their trusts to fund aromatase inhibitors, but Wednesday's ruling will help the thousands who have been turned down or have not known about the improved outcomes associated with taking them.

The ruling will force the hands of PCTs in England and Wales that have so far refused to pay for the drugs. They have already been approved for patients in Scotland.

A study reported in Thursday's Lancet Oncology found women switching from tamoxifen to anastrozole improved their survival chances by almost 30 per cent.

source - Telegraph UK 


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