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Roche’s Breast Cancer Drug Priced Too High, UK Watchdog States

Update Date: Apr 23, 2014 11:34 AM EDT

A new breast cancer drug manufactured by Roche is under fire for being too expensive. The United Kingdom's healthcare cost watchdog, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), reported that the cost of the drug, Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine), cannot be justified. If the costs are not reduced, NICE stated that the drug will not be used on the National Health Service (NHS).

"We had hoped that Roche would have recognized the challenge the NHS faces in managing the adoption of expensive new treatments by reducing the cost of Kadcyla to the NHS," NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon said reported by Reuters Health.

According to NICE, Kadcyla could cost up to 90,831 pounds or $152,496 per patient. Roche has stated that the costs represent the years of work that the company invested in the project. Currently, the drug is available through to 2016 on England's Cancer Drugs Fund, which was created so that women with advanced breast cancer can receive the drug without waiting for NICE's decision. By then, if the costs do not fall, NICE stated that the drug will not be available on NHS.

Kadcyla is a type of treatment for women with HER2-postiive breast cancer that are not operable. In these breast cancer cases, the tumor has spread to other regions of the body and the body has stopped responding to initial treatment. The drug can add almost six months to these patients' life. It works by attacking and killing the cancer cells from within.

"Kadcyla represents a significant advance in HER2-positive breast cancer, so for NICE to issue negative preliminary guidance is a huge blow," commented Professor Paul Ellis, a consultant oncologist at King's College London who has been using the drug on his patients.

Dillon stated, according to BBC News, "We hope the manufacturer will act in the best interests of patients and use this consultation period to look again at their evidence and consider if there is more they can do."

If the costs do not change, Kadcyla will become the third breast cancer drug manufactured by Roche that NICE has turned down due to costs. NICE's draft that opposes the use of Kadcyla as routine medication is open for consultation.

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