First breast cancer drug in decade approved for NHS use

Health officials have approved the first breast cancer drug in a decade for widespread NHS use.

Women with some forms of breast cancer are to benefit from eribulin after the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) said it should be made available across the NHS in England.

Nice said it was able to approve the drug, also known as Halaven, after receiving new evidence about its effectiveness.

Trial results showed that it can offer women three months of additional life compared with other therapies.

Breast Cancer Now welcomed the move, saying that the drug would offer a "crucial" alternative to patients.

In draft guidance, Nice said that eribulin, made by pharmaceutical company Eisai, should be made available to women who have locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer that has spread after two rounds of chemotherapy.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: "This is immensely positive news.

"Eribulin is the first breast cancer drug in a decade to be approved and this represents real progress for certain patients in England.

"It offers a crucial life-extending alternative for patients whose breast cancer has become resistant to other therapies, and for those with triple negative disease, who desperately lack treatment options.

"But the real tests are still yet to come and we now eagerly await Nice's decision on the even more effective drugs being appraised, including Kadcyla.

"With the appraisal process that has rejected the previous 10 breast cancer treatments seeing little meaningful reform, we unfortunately do not believe today's decision to be the beginning of a new trend."

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at Nice, said: "When we first looked at eribulin in 2012 there wasn't enough evidence of its clinical effectiveness compared with current standard treatments to be able to recommend it as a cost-effective use of NHS resources.

"For this appraisal we've been able to consider updated results from the trial used in the original guidance that show women taking eribulin lived on average almost three months longer compared with women taking other treatments.

"We've also been able to take into account the results for health-related quality-of-life from another trial that compared eribulin with capecitabine.

"The life expectancy of people for whom eribulin is licensed is short, and quality of life is very important.

"We are therefore pleased to be able to provisionally recommend eribulin as an additional option for people with advanced breast cancer."

The medication had previously been available through the Cancer Drugs Fund but Nice has now said it should be available routinely across the health service in England.

Patients across Wales are also likely to benefit as the Welsh NHS has been directed to implement Nice technology appraisal guidance. The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) gave the drug the green light for use of the drug earlier this year.

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in England with around 45,000 new cases every year. Around 300 men are also diagnosed with the condition.

In 2014, 9,500 women and 60 men died from breast cancer.

Danni Manzi, head of policy and campaigns at the charity Breast Cancer Care, said: "This decision could be life-changing for many women living with incurable breast cancer.

"Access to the life-extending drug eribulin will offer patients precious extra time to spend with their loved ones. For these patients every day counts.

"We hope this decision will lay the foundation for improved access to treatments for women with this life-limiting disease. With so few treatment options available, it is momentous to bring another medicine to the table."