We’re pleased to be able to share some great news about secondary breast cancer drug palbociclib. In this blog, we answer some questions about Pfizer's decision to offer palbociclib to patients across the UK for free.

Wednesday 3 May 2017      Policy and campaigns blog

What decision has been made?

Pfizer, the drug’s manufacturer, will offer palbociclib as a first line treatment free of charge for patients being treated on the NHS across the UK for the next five months while the National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) – the body that decides whether new treatments should be available on the NHS in England – makes a final decision on this.

Wales and Northern Ireland usually follow the recommendations made by NICE.

In Scotland, it is unclear when Pfizer will make an application to the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for the drug to be considered for NHS use. We want this to happen as soon as possible and will be calling for Pfizer to keep palbociclib free for patients in Scotland until the SMC considers the application.

As it is estimated that around 6,000 patients could be eligible for palbociclib across the UK each year, this scheme could potentially benefit thousands of patients.

All patients that start taking palbociclib during the time it is available free of charge will continue to receive it for as long as they need it, even after the scheme has closed, and regardless of the final decision made by NICE or the SMC.

What kind of treatment is palbociclib?

Palbociclib, also known as Ibrance, is a first-line treatment for patients with locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer which is hormone receptor positive and HER2 negative. It is taken with an aromatase inhibitor, a type of hormone therapy.

This is a very effective treatment, extending the time that people are able to live with their breast cancer before it progresses by an additional 10 months compared to the alternative treatment option of an aromatase inhibitor alone. We know that patients and their loved ones particularly value having additional good quality time where they are able to continue with normal day-to-day activities.

When will a final decision be made?

Back in February, NICE provisionally rejected palbociclib for routine use on the NHS in England because it believed it was too expensive for the benefits it provided. When this news broke we asked you to help us put pressure on Pfizer and NICE by calling on them to consider every possible solution to ensure palbociclib was available to patients on the NHS.

The NICE appraisal process for this drug has now been paused so that Pfizer can provide further evidence and we are expecting a final decision to be made in the Autumn. In the meantime, anyone that thinks palbociclib may be suitable for them should contact their clinician to ask about accessing it through this scheme.

What else should I know?

Access to palbociclib will rely on relevant health bodies agreeing to participate in the scheme. In England and Northern Ireland this is Trusts, and in Scotland and Wales, Health Boards.

Pfizer is currently communicating details of the scheme to clinicians and health bodies. We urge Pfizer and the relevant bodies to ensure that fair agreements are put in place as soon as possible to ensure that as many people as possible can benefit from this scheme.

My local health body is not participating - what can I do?

Anyone that is told that their local Trust or Health Board is not participating in the scheme, should let us know by emailing campaigns@breastcancernow.org

What happens next?

While this news is very welcome, it is a short-term fix. We still need a long term solution. Pfizer must work with NICE – and the SMC - to find a way to ensure that palbociclib is routinely available on the NHS to ensure that all patients that could benefit from palbociclib do.

More information

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