Benefit of kidney cancer drugs ‘still too small’

NICE has decided not to recommend Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus) for kidney cancer.

Although NICE acknowledged that the drugs extend life by up to six months, it found that their benefits are too limited against the cost, in spite of offers from manufacturers Roche, Bayer and Wyeth to considerably cut prices for NHS patients.

The institute also rejected Pfizer’s Sutent (sunitinib) as a second line treatment, despite approving it as a first line treatment earlier in the year.

Professor Peter Littlejohns, Clinical and Public Health Director, said: “We are very aware that renal cancer is a devastating disease for the individual and their family. We recommended the use of sunitinib for first line renal cancer in March 2009, so one of these new treatments is now available.

“The evidence to support the use of the other first and second line treatments isn’t strong enough to justify using NHS funds, which could be used for other cancer treatment programmes or in other treatment areas. Our advisory committee used the additional flexibility we have recently given them to give special weight to drugs that extend life, at the end of life, but the benefit was still too small set against their cost.”

The appeal against the decision from Roche, Wyeth Pharmaceuticals, James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer and a joint appeal from Rarers Cancer Forum and Macmillan Cancer Support have not been upheld.

John Melville, General Manager of Roche UK, has called the decision “illogical” and claimed that the drug was turned down only because it is used in the treatment of other conditions. “This guidance goes against the spirit of end of life criteria,” Melville said.