PUBLISHED ON: 17 December 2019

Atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel can be offered to NHS patients through a free access scheme. We explain what you need to know about this treatment.

Living with secondary breast cancer group

What kind of treatment is atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel?

Atezolizumab (also known as Tecentriq) is a type of immunotherapy given in combination with chemotherapy drug nab-paclitaxel. It is licensed as a first-line treatment for patients with untreated locally advanced or secondary triple negative breast cancer, whose cancers produce a marker known as PD-L1. There is a test to identify patients who are PD-L1 positive.

The latest exploratory analysis from a major trial (Impassion130) suggests that atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel may offer up to seven additional months of life on average for those with PD-L1 positive tumours, compared to nab-paclitaxel alone.

What’s the latest news regarding atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel?

Roche, the drug’s manufacturer, will now offer atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel free of charge for patients being treated on the NHS while the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the body that decides whether a new treatment should be available on the NHS in England – makes a final decision on its use.

In March 2019, atezolizumab was made available through an Early Access to Medicines Scheme (EAMS), which provides access to unlicensed drugs that could be of benefit to patients where there is significant unmet need. This scheme came to an end in September following the treatment receiving its marketing authorisation from the European Medicines Agency (EMA).

In October 2019, NICE provisionally rejected the treatment for use on the NHS because it had found the treatment wasn’t a cost-effective use of NHS resources. Read our response to this draft decision. We urged Roche, NHS England and NICE to work together to explore every possible solution to ensure this treatment option could be recommended for use on the NHS.

What should I know about the free access scheme? 

Now that a free of charge scheme (also known as a commercial supply scheme) is in place, access to atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel will rely on relevant health bodies agreeing to participate in the scheme. We hope that all parties will work together in a timely manner to ensure agreements are in place so that as many people as possible can benefit from this scheme.

When will a final decision be made by NICE?

Following NICE’s draft decision to not recommend atezolizumab with nab-paclitaxel for use on the NHS, a consultation took place which Breast Cancer Now responded to. We are now awaiting the second committee meeting and we hope a final positive decision will be reached as quickly as possible.

In the meantime, anyone who thinks this treatment may be suitable for them should contact their treatment team to ask about accessing it through the free of charge scheme.

In Scotland, decisions about the use of drugs on the NHS are made by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). This treatment has recently been submitted for assessment to the SMC and we are awaiting further timelines.  

Anyone with questions about their breast cancer treatment can also call our free Helpline on 0808 800 6000 to speak to one of our expert nurses.

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