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Kidney cancer drug approved

4th February 2009

The NHS drugs watchdog has given the go-ahead for kidney cancer drugs to be available on the health service.

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The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has approved in principal the drug Sunitinib, which can increase patients’ survival by up to a year, for England and Northern Ireland.

Wales has already approved the drug, but it is still not available in Scotland.

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon said: "Many people have made the point very strongly that they regard the ability of the NHS to extend life as being of special importance.

"We wanted to make sure that they had enough flexibility in all circumstances to make a recommendation where drugs have the ability to give people some additional life."

Sunitinib, which is known as Sutent and costs about £3,000 for a six-week cycle, was rejected last year for the treatment of advanced kidney cancer along with three other drugs.

Manufacturer Pfizer has offered to provide the first cycle of sunitinib free to the NHS.

Specialists have welcomed the approval of Sutent while Rachel Rowson, policy manager at Macmillan Cancer Support, said: "This is a victory for kidney cancer patients and is long overdue.

"This decision recognises the need to fund drugs that improve quality of life for patients and we applaud Nice for making Sutent available to all who need it."

Cancer Research UK, said sunitinib could make an important difference for people who have few other options for treatment but called on NICE to decide on three further drugs as quickly as possible.

 

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