NHS London agrees to fund Avastin

Women in capital with aggressive forms of breast cancer to get access through special cancer drugs fund

Women in London who develop a certain type of aggressive and advanced breast cancer were today given access on the NHS to a life-prolonging drug which would previously have been unavailable to them on the health service.

Until now, women in the capital have been forced to pay privately for Avastin, after the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) – which decides on which drugs and treatment are cost-effective for the NHS – refused to recommend it for breast cancer patients.

But NHS London today agreed to fund Avastin for patients who apply through a special cancer drugs fund set up by the Government.

Trials have shown Avastin can give between five and 10 extra months of life but NICE has previously refused to recommend its use on the NHS due to cost concerns. The drug has been one of several high profile ones including Herceptin which have been at the forefront of debate in the private medical insurance industry over what should and should not be covered by the product.

Today it was announced that women in London who develop breast cancer which is known as “triple negative” and those who have received a taxane – a type of drug that blocks cell growth – when their disease was early stage can now have access to NHS-funded Avastin.

Professor Paul Ellis, Professor of Cancer Medicine at King’s College London, said that for women with certain “notoriously hard to treat” and often aggressive breast cancers, chemotherapy is sometimes not successful.

He said: “Avastin is one of the few treatments available for these women that give them valuable extra time to live their lives without their disease worsening so the announcement that it will now be funded for NHS patients in London is excellent news. It gives patients and clinicians further choice in a disease where there is a particular need for more treatment options.”

Up to 4,000 women are diagnosed every year with breast cancer in London. Up to half go on to develop the advanced form.

NHS London has also approved Avastin for patients with colon and advanced ovarian cancers.

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