May 15 2012 By Emma Smith
A DRUG that could help battle deadly cancer in city residents has been blocked from use because it is too expensive.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) ruled that the drug for melanoma - the first new licensed drug for the disease in three decades in the UK - was not good “value for money”.
Glasgow medical experts and campaigners slammed the decision on the drug, Yervoy (ipilimumab), which SMC admitted showed a survival benefit in patients with advanced melanoma.
The decisions leaves patients in Scotland with no treatment options beyond chemotherapy and supporters of the drug said they hoped the SMC could negotiate with the pharmaceutical firm.
Leigh Smith, chairwoman of Bearsden-based Melanoma Action and Support Scotland, said: “This drug is a big leap forward from what we currently have. It is a very expensive drug and we have to spend what we have.
“It’s really sad for the patients that the company didn’t put together a better cost benefit analysis to the SMC - we should be able to negotiate to get a price that can be afforded.”
She added that a clinical trial set to open soon in Glasgow with the drug would be more limited in scope because the SMC did not approve the medicine.
Professor Jeff Evans, professor of translational cancer research at Glasgow University, said: “Ipilimumab is an important development in the treatment of this disease and has been shown to improve outcomes
in some patients. In addition, there have been patients who have received the treatment who have experienced long-term disease control, which is encouraging.”
Every year in Scotland around 1,200 patients are diagnosed with malignant melanoma, the most deadly form of skin cancer and its rising at an epidemic rate.
Over the last 10 years the cases of melanoma in Scotland has risen by 73 per cent in males and 70 per cent in females.
Since it was licensed in Europe in July 2011, many eligible patients in England have been able to receive Ipilimumab. During this same period a number of Scottish patients have attempted to access ipilimumab through Individual Patient Treatment Requests (IPTR) made by their clinician on their behalf to local health authorities.
Vicky Crichton, Cancer Research UK’s public affairs manager for Scotland, added: “It’s disappointing that the high cost of Ipilimumab makes it impossible for SMC to recommend its routine use in the NHS. This is a new and potentially effective treatment for some people with melanoma, but we still don’t have a good way to identify those most likely to benefit and those at risk of the occasionally severe side effects.”
Regarding the drug, the SMC stated: “SMC did not accept ipilimumab because weaknesses in the economic case submitted by the company and the justification of costs in relation to benefits meant the medicine was not considered to offer value for money.”