A deal needs to be struck on access to a key breast cancer drug in Scotland to give women “more time to live”, campaigners have warned.
The Scottish Government has revealed its officials and the NHS are in talks with the manufacturer of breast cancer drug Perjeta, which has been rejected three times for routine use on the NHS in Scotland but is available south of the border.
Charity Breast Cancer Now said the drug, also known as pertuzumab, can prolong the lives of women with incurable HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer by up to 16 months.
It was made available for routine use on the NHS in England last month, having previously only been accessible through the Cancer Drugs Fund, but is not yet available on the same basis in Scotland.
The drug was rejected by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for a third time in June 2017 on the basis it was not cost-effective.
In a letter to Scottish Conservative health spokesman Miles Briggs, who has been campaigning on the issue, Health Secretary Shona Robison wrote: “My officials met with representatives from Roche, the manufacturer of pertuzumab (Perjeta), on January 30 2018.
“Following on from this, Roche met with NHS NSS National Procurement in February and both plan to hold further discussions.”
Mr Briggs urged those involved to reach a deal soon.
He said: “It’s completely unacceptable that breast cancer patients in Scotland are denied access to a crucial drug which is available elsewhere in the UK.
“It’s a postcode lottery which can devastate women’s lives.
“That has to change and I’m glad meetings are now taking place between the Scottish Government and the manufacturers.
“It’s now incumbent on both parties to ensure a deal can be struck to make this medicine available for use as soon as possible.”
Lawrence Cowan, Scotland manager at Breast Cancer Now, said: “This is a positive development but we now need to see it lead to long-awaited routine access for patients.
“Roche, the NHS and the SMC all need to work together to reach a deal – and fast – to ensure hundreds of women living with incurable breast cancer can be given more time to live.
“The fact that a deal has been reached in England and Wales on Perjeta proves that it is possible for this drug to be made available at a price the NHS can afford. Women with secondary breast cancer in Scotland don’t have time to lose.”