Charity calls for further progress on unlocking life-changing breast cancer drugs available in England

Monday 11 December 2017      Scotland

The Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) has today approved the breast cancer drug palbociclib (Ibrance, Pfizer) for routine use on the NHS in Scotland.

Palbociclib is licensed as a first-line treatment for patients with hormone receptor positive, HER2 negative locally advanced or metastatic (or secondary) breast cancer. The drug is given in combination with an aromatase inhibitor (a type of hormone therapy) and is one of the first of a new class of drugs that work by inhibiting two crucial cell division proteins called CDK4 and CDK6 – known as CDK4/6 inhibitors.

Clinical trials show that palbociclib, given with letrozole (an aromatase inhibitor) substantially improves upon letrozole alone for treatment of this type of breast cancer, providing women with an additional 10 months before their condition progresses. It is estimated that the drug could benefit more than 250 patients each year.   

While welcoming the decision, the charity repeated its calls for other life-changing treatments – such as Perjeta - available to women in England to be unlocked in Scotland as soon as possible. Perjeta (Roche) – which can extend the lives of women with incurable HER2 positive secondary breast cancer by nearly 16 months on average, compared to existing treatments – was not deemed cost-effective by the SMC in June. The drug is currently available on the Cancer Drugs Fund in England and a deal was recently announced between the drug company Roche and NHS England which is likely to secure its future availability on England’s NHS.  

Lawrence Cowan, Scotland Manager for Breast Cancer Now, said:

“This is a major step forward in treatment for Scottish patients, bringing to an end a long wait for new options for this type of incurable metastatic breast cancer

“Palbociclib is a transformational drug.  It is the first of an exciting new generation of medicines capable of stopping a common type of secondary breast cancer in its tracks for around ten months more than existing treatments. For women living with incurable breast cancer, and their loved ones, this good quality time can be absolutely priceless.  
“We are delighted that the SMC and Pfizer have worked together to ensure this treatment can be accessed in Scotland.

“However, there is still much more to do to ensure that the life-changing treatments available in England are unlocked for women in Scotland too. Perjeta has been available in England for over four years but it is still not routinely available to women with secondary breast cancer in Scotland.  

“Everything must be done to make sure the best breast cancer drugs are made available to Scottish women at a price the NHS can afford. That means drug companies offering Scotland’s NHS the best price possible and the Scottish Government implementing the recommendations of the Montgomery review of access to new medicines quickly.