Living with incurable breast cancer is less than living, it’s surviving. Enduring chemotherapy and other drugs with horrendous side-effects means that patients have little quality of life, without even having the hope of going into remission.
However, there is a drug that promises to improve the quality of life for sufferers of incurable breast cancer. Better yet, increase life expectancy by 16 months. Perjeta has been available through the Cancer Drugs Fund since 2013, a service established so people could have access to cancer drugs rejected by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) because they aren’t cost effective. This was the case for Perjeta, which was deemed not available on the NHS because the ‘cost in relation to its health benefits’ was not justifiable.
As a result, only certain patients could have access to Perjeta, where a decision is made by the Cancer Drugs Fund based on the type and stage of cancer, previous treatments and general health. Now, after a lengthy negotiation with the drug provider, a Swiss company called Roche, has reduced the price of Perjeta, allowing Nice to deem is more cost-effective and approve it for use across NHS England.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, told The Guardian:
‘While a long time coming, we’re thrilled that tough negotiation and flexibility by NHS England and Nice, and the willingness of Roche to put patients first and compromise on price, has again ensured thousands of women can be given more time to live,’
‘Perjeta is a truly life-changing drug and we are absolutely delighted and relieved that Nice has finally been able to recommend it for routine NHS use in England.’
The concern now, however, is that the drug is only available in England, leaving the rest of the UK without access to the ‘most effective breast cancer drug in years’. Cancer charities are calling for other countries to negotiate a deal with Roche so patients with secondary breast cancer across the UK can receive the same treatment.
Should this be the case, it will continue the string of positive health news in relation to breast cancer so far this year. In the past month, there has been reports of better survival rates for those with the BRCA gene, demands for mass testing to further improve this, and trials beginning for a universal blood test for cancer. This comes in the run up to World Cancer Day on the 4th of February, which will hopefully encourage further donation and in turn greater research to prevent and cure cancer around the world.
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