A monthly injection that halts the course of breast cancer is set to be rejected by health officials.
NHS rationing watchdog NICE today publishes a draft decision rejecting the use of cancer drug fulvestrant.
Officials accept that the £7,900-a-year therapy pauses the growth of a certain form of breast cancer for three months longer than existing treatments. But they insisted there was no evidence that this would save lives.
The watchdog may reverse its decision when it publishes its final guidance later this year. If it does so, 1,200 women in England with advanced oestrogen-receptor-positive breast cancer would benefit each year.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of the charity Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘This is very disappointing news. New options for women with this type of breast cancer are long overdue, and, while fulvestrant’s ultimate survival benefit remains uncertain, it offers a valuable advance in treatment.
‘Fulvestrant can give some women nearly three extra months before their breast cancer progresses compared to the standard treatment of aromatase inhibitors, often with only mild side effects. Crucially, it can also delay the need for some women to begin chemotherapy, time which can be so important to many. But unfortunately fulvestrant finds itself in a position where it cannot win.’
The drug is used to treat post-menopausal women who have not already had treatment with other hormone therapies such as tamoxifen. The NICE committee concluded it was too early to say from the available evidence if the drug leads to an increase in overall survival.