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Liver Cancer Drug Price 'Too High'

Human Rights


According to draft guidance, patients with advanced liver cancer will not have access to a new drug on the NHS - a move cancer charities call a "scandal".

The price of the medicine manufactured by pharmaceutical firm Bayer was "simply too high", the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said.

Nexavar, or sorafenib, does not cure cancer but extends lives, usually by six months.

Offering a patient access scheme, Bayer said every fourth packet would be free, adding it would appeal Nice's decision.

The drug is suitable for advanced hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), in which the cancer tumour originates in the liver rather than spreading there from elsewhere in the body.

Very few patients are eligible for surgery, which is the only hope of a cure.

More than 3,200 deaths are recorded from liver cancer in the UK every year and more than 3,000 are diagnosed yearly.

Only 20% of patients survive a year after diagnosis, dropping to 5% after five years.

Latest figures from Cancer Research UK showed 3,190 people were diagnosed with liver cancer in Britain in 2006 and 3,202 died from it in 2007.

Copyright © Press Association 2009

Yogi Amin from law firm Irwin Mitchell said: “ It can appear deeply unfair to the patient that they are being denied life prolonging drug treatment. The real question is whether NIC have properly balanced the human rights of the patient needing this cancer drug and the wider needs of us all for healthcare.”