10 November 2022

Responding, Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“It’s devastating that olaparib - a ground-breaking and potentially life-saving treatment for certain people with primary breast cancer who have inherited an altered BRCA gene* - often known as the Jolie gene - has been provisionally rejected for use on the NHS. 

“Around 5-10% of women with breast cancer carry an inherited altered gene - of which the BRCA 1 and 2 genes are the most common. Sadly, some people with high-risk, HER2 negative, primary breast cancer with an altered BRCA gene may see their cancer return following treatment.

“Olaparib holds the potential to reduce the risk of a patient’s cancer returning or progressing to incurable secondary breast cancer, and to save people dying from this devastating disease. Yet today’s draft decision denies these patients the chance to receive the best possible treatment and the hope of a future free from breast cancer.

“Decades of research has ensured that more people now are surviving breast cancer than ever before. But this can only happen if potentially life-saving treatments, like olaparib, quickly reach patients on the NHS.

“It’s vital AstraZeneca, NICE and NHS England work together to explore every solution to make this a reality, including AstraZeneca ensuring the drug is priced fairly, at a level that guarantees its availability for those who so badly need it. AstraZeneca has a free-of-charge early access programme in place for eligible patients and it’s crucial this scheme remains open for all new eligible patients until olaparib can be recommended for use on the NHS.

“We encourage patients to speak to their clinical team about their treatment options and they can also speak to our expert nurses by calling our free, confidential Helpline on 0808 800 6000.”

ENDS

Please sign our urgent petition calling for AstraZeneca, NICE and NHS England to work together to explore every possible solution - including AstraZeneca doing all it can to price the drug at a level that ultimately will ensure its availability.

 

Notes To Editor 

Breast Cancer Now funded researchers contributed to the discovery and testing of PARP inhibitors. The charity receives a share of royalties from the Institute of Cancer Research for sales of PARP inhibitor drugs being used in a targeted way to treat cancers with changes in BRCA genes, or other similar defects which mean that cancer cells are unable to properly repair their DNA. This includes royalties from sales of olaparib by AstraZeneca and Merck. The charity re-invests the money to fund world-class research and life-changing support for everyone affected by breast cancer.

*Olaparib is licensed as a monotherapy or in combination with endocrine (hormone) therapy for the adjuvant (after surgery) treatment of patients with germline BRCA1/2 mutations who have HER2 negative (so either triple negative or hormone receptor positive), high risk primary breast cancer which has been previously treated with neoadjuvant or adjuvant chemotherapy.

Olaparib is a PARP inhibitor which is a type of targeted (biological) therapy. PARP inhibitors have been developed to treat cancers with changes in BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes.