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Thursday 24th May 2018

Redirect cancer drug cash

29th November 2007

A leading radiotherapy specialist has said that the millions of pounds the NHS spends on the breast cancer drug Herceptin could be used to treat thousands of people using other therapies.


The NHS’ chief spokesman of radiotherapy Dr Peter Kirkbride said the NHS spent £100m on Herceptin in 2006 but only 500 patients had benefited at a cost of about £200,000 each.

Dr Kirkbride said he believed that if that was spent on radiotherapy, it could have a dramatic impact in the UK where cancer survival in the UK is still below the European average.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence approved Herceptin for use in women with early stage breast cancer in 2006 but some cancer doctors are now concerned by the focus on new cancer drugs.

Dr Kirkbride said: “There is a lot of publicity about the role of chemotherapy but the consensus is of all cancers that are cured, half are cured by surgeries, 40% by radiotherapy and only 10% by drugs.

“If I was to spend £100m on radiotherapy, I could buy something like 90 machines, I could buy 30 simulators and I could probably benefit about 30,000 patients for the same amount of money.?

National Cancer director Professor Mike Richards said there should be room in the cancer budget for both treatments

He said there was no doubt that Herceptin is a good drug but added that radiotherapy is also effective.

“We need to make sure that it’s not one or the other,? he said.


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