The first and only targeted chemotherapy drug for secondary breast cancer has been rejected by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) for use on the NHS in Scotland.

Friday 10 October 2014      Scotland
Scottish women denied ground breaking chemotherapy treatment

Kadcyla is the first ever targeted chemotherapy drug for breast cancer. For women with HER2-positive secondary breast cancer, this drug targets the cancer cells and releases chemotherapy into only these cells so damage to healthy cells is minimised, meaning side effects are reduced.

In clinical trials, it has been shown to extend life in women by an average of six months, which could make a huge difference to those living with incurable breast cancer and have limited time left with their loved ones.

James Jopling, Breakthrough Breast Cancer’s Director for Scotland, said:

“This is simply devastating news for women with secondary breast cancer, a cancer that will take their lives at some point, with many facing very limited treatment options. Kadcyla has been shown to be an extremely effective drug that is now out of reach for both the women that desperately need it and the oncologists that want to be able to provide it.  

“Yet support for this drug has united the entire breast cancer community. Patients, families, carers, oncologists, and all four breast cancer charities in Scotland have called for this medicine to be approved. In addition over 1,800 members of the public have signed our petition calling for more medicines like Kadcyla to be made available in Scotland.

“So this is a deeply disappointing outcome and, though we recognise the very high cost of this medicine made it hard for the SMC to approve, it becomes more vital than ever that pharmaceutical companies do more to set the cost of new medicines at a price the NHS can afford.

“It is a bitter irony that this decision comes as we mark Secondary Breast Cancer Awareness Day, and Breakthrough is calling on both the SMC and the manufacturer to engage in further discussions to see if there is a quick route to overcoming the price barrier over Kadcyla so it can get to the women who need it.

“Access to drugs for people who really need them is an ongoing problem and Breakthrough is leading the call for a solution to be found. We are determined to stop breast cancer for good, and making sure every woman receives the treatment she needs is the first step. It’s impossible to put a price on life’s precious moments but it’s not impossible to put a fair price on life-extending drugs. Join our campaign at”

Lesley Stephen (48) from Edinburgh, who is living with HER2+ secondary breast cancer and would in future be treated with Kadcyla were it approved, said in response to this decision:

“I am devastated by the decision today to reject Kadcyla.  I was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer 6 months ago, and since then have been undergoing gruelling chemotherapy to reduce the cancer.  For the rest of my life I will be dependent on drugs like Kadcyla to keep the cancer at bay.  I have been receiving fantastic treatment through the NHS at the moment but I struggle to understand this decision which effectively puts a price on my life.  

“It has been hard enough to lose the future life that I had taken for granted, having been diagnosed with this particularly aggressive form of the disease, but knowing that I won't be able to receive a drug that could help to extend my life and also give me a good quality of life is doubly hard.  I'd like to see someone explain this to my four children, and to all those other children out there who will now lose their mothers sooner than they should."

In terms of next steps, the drug manufacturer could re-submit Kadcyla for SMC consideration but this could be a lengthy process resulting in further delays to women accessing this medicine. In that time, women who could have had extra time will miss out. In the meantime, women in Scotland may in some cases be able to get access to this drug pending individual funding requests by their healthcare team but this is done on a case by case basis.

Join our campaign to #DemandAFairPrice for life-extending drugs today.