Thursday, 26 November 2009

when NICE is NOT nice

This morning I had fabulous news. My friend Nat, who is still battling ovarian cancer, has had the best news today. Thanks to Avastin, her tumours are FINALLY shrinking, and her CA 125 is the lowest it has been since she started her head to head with this hideous disease. Yes, she has a few side effects, but they are only due to the treatment itself and will stop when the treatment ends.

I think this will be the best Thanksgiving Nat has ever had! It certainly made my day. Please see Nat's blog here. It makes for interesting reading.

Having seen this result, and knowing what a difference this drug has made to my friend, it astounds me that we [and I mean ANY of us] can actually put a price on someone's life and deny them a chance of survival. How nauseating is that? And what does it say about society now? I am a bit startled by this article. And I notice they only say that it can be used for bowel cancer. No mention of the effects on ovarian cancer.

Then again, I think it's only the UK that actually HAS an almost free state healthcare service? I suppose we can't have everything. In the States they have cutting edge technology with regard to drugs and research, here we have to wait. But in the US they have to pay or die, here we get everything free.

So sad we can't have both. Cutting edge technology AND free medical healthcare for everyone. But then if it was a perfect world, no-one would have cancer in the first place would they?


New hope over bowel cancer drug  (UKPA) – 14 hours ago

"Pharmaceutical giant Roche is hoping to strike a deal with a health watchdog after experts rejected a bowel cancer drug for use on the NHS.

Avastin (bevacizumab), which costs about £1,800 a month, has been shown to shrink tumours in 78% of patients when it is added to chemotherapy drugs capecitabine and oxaliplatin. This could make them eligible for surgery although the drug is not a cure.

Avastin is suitable for patients with advanced (metastatic) bowel cancer, where the disease has spread around the body, and could potentially extend the lives of some 6,000 people a year in the UK.

Roche offered a patient access scheme to reduce the cost of Avastin, which would have seen a cap on its cost at 12 months and free oxaliplatin. Roche said this would have reduced the price to £36,000 per quality adjusted life year (QALY), above the £30,000 threshold used by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) which rejected the drug in a draft recommendation.

In a statement, Roche said it was "confident" it could continue to work with Nice to make Avastin available.

"The UK is now virtually the only country in the developed world not to provide Avastin for bowel cancer through the state healthcare service," the statement said.

John Melville, general manager at Roche UK, said: "We are in an unfortunate passport prescribing situation with Avastin whereby patients in Australia, Canada and most of Europe gain access, but patients in the UK, Latvia and Poland don't."

In clinical trials, adding Avastin to oxaliplatin-based chemotherapy typically increased survival to 21.3 months from 19.9 months with chemotherapy."


  1. I'm in a clinical trial for ovarian with avastin. This is a blind study with a control group receiving a placebo. And I believe I'm getting the placebo. Grrrrr!

  2. that must be frustrating. how do you know? do they tell you afterwards?

  3. Its crazy - I may end up being billed for these treatments, because they are not approved for OVCA. Yet, it is the only drug that has given me any hope. My treatments are billed to my insurance company at $50,000.00 (yep - fifty thousand dollars) per treatment. I'm not sure what that translates into pounds or euros. I hope to God that they pay it. Otherwise, what is my life worth? How much debt do I put my husband into, to fight this disease? It is a frightening question, and difficult to answer.

    Big hugs Sandhy! Thanks for linking me!! :)

  4. It's not just your husband - it's the pair of you. What a pressure to be under. $50,000.00 USD = £30,486.89 GBP. Roche initial price for it in the UK is £36000.00 [aaak! all those zero's!] per 'quality adjusted life year' (QALY). QALY?? Do you think that makes it easier for them to price things - not using the word 'person' or 'human'.

    It's astounding. I do hope your insurance co. pay for it - but the FH won't care anyway as long as it does the job.

    May you enjoy many many more QALY's my dear! ;o)


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