Following an “important step forward” for early breast cancer, we call for an end to injustice in Scotland on use of Perjeta for women with incurable breast cancer.

Monday 10 December 2018      Scotland
a nurse giving a patient an injection

Breast Cancer Now has welcomed the Scottish Medicines Consortium’s (SMC) decision to approve breast cancer drug Perjeta (pertuzumab) as a new treatment option before surgery for patients with early breast cancer on Scotland’s NHS. 

Manufactured by Roche, Perjeta can be given in combination with trastuzumab and chemotherapy before surgery to help shrink tumours for women with HER2-positive locally advanced, inflammatory, or early breast cancer at high risk of recurrence.

While describing the new guidance as an “important step forward”, we repeated our call for Perjeta to also be made routinely available to patients with secondary breast cancer in Scotland. As well as being used in early breast cancer, the drug can give women with incurable secondary breast cancer nearly 16 additional months of life on average, compared to existing options – and has been available in England since 2013.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

This is an important step forward for Scottish patients. We are delighted Perjeta will now be used in treating early breast cancer before surgery on the NHS in Scotland, as it is elsewhere in the UK.

By shrinking breast tumours prior to surgery, this vital therapy will enable some women to undergo less extensive operations, reducing both their discomfort and their recovery time. It could even make inoperable cancers operable.

But the real test for this drug, and the appraisal system in Scotland, is still to come. While we’re delighted Perjeta will offer a new option for some patients with early breast cancer, it stands to make the greatest difference for those with incurable ‘secondary’ breast cancer – and yet it is still not routinely available in Scotland for that purpose.

We must ensure we are making the most of the incredible research progress that Perjeta represents for Scottish patients. For women with incurable cancer, this drug could be life-changing – offering nearly 16 precious extra months of live on average, compared to existing treatments.

Perjeta has been the standard of care for women with incurable HER2-positive breast cancer in England for five years and it is now also available for routine use on the NHS in Wales and Northern Ireland. It is totally unacceptable that women in Scotland are missing out – this injustice must end. With a decision imminent in the New Year, we desperately hope Roche, the SMC and the Scottish Government have done enough to enable Perjeta to be approved for everyone who could benefit from it.