New research published in the British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) has shown that there is a low awareness among GPs of tamoxifen as a preventive treatment for women at medium or high risk of breast cancer.
The study – led by Dr Samuel Smith at the University of Leeds and Professor Jack Cuzick at Queen Mary, University of London – saw 928 GPs in England, Northern Ireland and Wales complete an online survey, finding that just over half (51.7%) of the surveyed GPs knew that tamoxifen could reduce breast cancer risk, while just a quarter (24.1%) were aware of relevant NICE guidelines.
Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:
“It is extremely concerning that many women at an increased risk of breast cancer are still not being offered the choice of taking tamoxifen to reduce their risk.
“NICE’s 2013 guideline recommended that it be offered to all women at medium and high risk of the disease. But unfortunately this is largely not being adhered to, with many GPs lacking confidence in discussing the option with patients and a worrying number not even being aware of it.
“Given the current debate on the increasing patient demand on the NHS, it is essential that we make the most of low-cost preventive measures such as tamoxifen.
“This study highlights that greater support needs to be offered to GPs in prescribing off-patent drugs in new uses. Where a drug is off-patent and without a license in a new setting, as tamoxifen is, a NICE guideline itself is just not enough to ensure it is routinely adopted, and this gap in the system must be urgently addressed.
“Ultimately, while not all women will want to take tamoxifen as it has side-effects as well as benefits, it’s imperative that they are offered the choice and given all the information they need to make an informed decision.”