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Breast Cancer Drug Avastin Will Not Be Available On NHS, Nice Rules

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A drug will not be available to treat breast cancer on the NHS after it was unclear whether it improved survival rates, a watchdog said today.
A drug will not be available to treat breast cancer on the NHS after it was unclear whether it improved survival rates, a watchdog said today.

A drug will not be available to treat breast cancer on the NHS after it was unclear whether it improved survival rates, a watchdog said today.

In draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said it did not recommend Avastin (bevacizumab) for the treatment of breast cancer when used in combination with capecitabine (a type of chemotherapy).

Nice said that making Avastin available on the NHS was not a good use of resources because of its high cost, and the lack of evidence to show patients would have a better quality of life than if they were treated with chemotherapy alone.

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Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said: "We understand the need for effective treatments that can help patients live for as long as possible with a good quality of life. However, the evidence submitted to our independent appraisal committee did not conclusively show that bevacizumab could do either.

"The cost-effectiveness of the treatment was also an issue; we can't recommend a drug that has not been shown to work as well as, or better than, current treatments and costs much more.

"We want to ensure people have access to the best treatments the NHS can afford; bevacizumab has so far not been proven to be clinically or cost-effective."

A consultation has been opened for the drug's manufacturer, healthcare professionals and members of the public to comment on the guidance from Nice.

The charity Breakthrough Breast Cancer said the negative impact of using Avastin to treat cancer that has spread from where it started was unknown.

Dr Rachel Greig, senior policy officer at the organisation, said: "We welcome new treatments for women with metastatic breast cancer as we know their options are limited and prolonging life is incredibly important to them and their families.

"However, this treatment combination can cause serious side effects and there is no evidence to show how this may affect a patient's quality of life."

The news comes after a "landmark" study which indicated breast cancer could be thought of as 10 different diseases.