Cost overweighs benefits of new drugs: NICE

Cost overweighs benefits of new drugs: NICENational Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), has stated that the cost of the new drug bevacizumab (Avastin) is significantly high when equated to its benefits. Bevacizumab is a new drug for the treatment of breast cancer. NICE claims that data provided by the manufacturer’s clinical trials did not suggest much improvement in the survival rates of patients.

Clinical trial data showed that bevacizumab plus paclitaxel could slow the growth and spread of tumor by approximately 7 weeks, but did not improve patients’ chances of survival. These results were in comparison with paclitaxel monotherapy.

Docetaxel is considered as the best treatment available for breast cancer. Results of clinical trials of bevacizumab (plus docetaxel) showed similar traits as those found in paclitaxel trial.

Sir Andrew Dillon, NICE Chief Executive believes these results were less conclusive and were unable to prove definitely that the drug could extend the lives of patients with metastatic breast cancer as compared with present treatments.

But Dr Emma Pennery, Clinical Director at Breast Cancer Care is of a different opinion. Having treated several women, she thinks that additional treatments like Avastin could be a value addition to drugs that slow down the cancer growth. She said that there were doubts about the suitability of the appraisal criteria as treatments that could help those with secondary breast cancer fail to get recommended. She was of the impression that more importance had to be placed on quality of life, relief of symptoms rather than just extent of survival while evaluating such drugs.

Another drug, mifamurtide (Mepact) to treat osteosarcoma was also found to be in a similar dilemma. It was found that it did not substantially increase the survival rates of patients with bone cancer. NICE has once again said that uncertainties over the drug’s effectiveness, combined with the high cost, are the reasons it is unable to recommend mifamurtide.