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Campaigner’s despair after pancreatic cancer drug is rejected

A breakthrough drug heralded by many as a ‘miracle’, and the first of its kind in 20 years will not be made available to pancreatic cancer patients on the NHS.

Abraxane, which has been proved to extend patient’s lives by up to two months when there are almost no other options available has been rejected for general use by the NHS because the health organisation considered the drug to not be ‘cost effective’.

Ali Stunt is the founder and CEO of the charity Pancreatic Cancer Action and is ‘outraged’ by the decision made by the NHS: “This is the first time Nice has looked at an effective treatment for the disease since 2001 and they have rejected it. There is a real disparity between survival rates here, which have been unchanged for 40 years, and elsewhere in Europe where patients survive twice as long and this decision is a backward step.”

Around 8,500 British people are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer each year, with many not being diagnosed because the pancreas is buried so deep within the body, so symptoms only appear when the disease reaches an advanced stage and treatment becomes less and less effective.

Abraxane is a drug which is given as an injection, and currently costs £5,000 for an average length course of treatment. Research has previously shown how Abraxane used in combination with chemotherapy can increase average survival by up to two months, but also increases the numbers of patients still alive after two years.

Professor Will Steward works with medical oncology in Leicester and said; “This is very depressing news for patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer who already have very limited treatment options. This negative Nice decision means that hundreds of patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer, who could potentially benefit from Abraxane, will not have access to it. For a cancer which has such poor survival rates, this is a very sad decision by Nice and now leaves clinicians with limited treatment options.”

Sir Andrew Dillon, the chief executive for NICE, said Abraxane was more effective than one of the treatment options currently available, but was also a lot more expensive.

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