Thousands of breast cancer sufferers will now be able to take a revolutionary drug following its approval for routine use on the NHS.
Kadcyla, considered the biggest breakthrough for sufferers in the last decade, was previously rejected due to its cost.
Campaigners reacted in anger when rationing watchdog NICE made the decision to block the medication in England two years ago.
But 1,200 women dying with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer – one of the most aggressive forms of the disease – can now get their hands on the life-saving drug.
Advocates of the life-saving drug have responded at the NHS cut-price deal with its manufacturer as being a major victory for sufferers.
Kadcyla, considered the biggest breakthrough for sufferers in the last decade, was previously rejected due to its cost. But the NHS has announced it will now be available for thousands
‘We are absolutely delighted’
Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, said: ‘We are absolutely delighted that tough negotiation and flexibility by Nice and NHS England, and the willingness of Roche to compromise on price, have ensured that thousands of women with incurable breast cancer will be given precious time to live.
‘We want to congratulate and thank the hundreds of thousands of women, men and families across the country for their relentless campaigning to ensure this crucial lifeline drug is routinely available to those that need it.’
Baroness Morgan was behind desperate pleas to make the drug available to women in England before the new proposals were announced.
She previously lambasted NICE for denying sufferers access to the drug that is available in France, Germany, Australia and Canada.
A report in August criticised NICE of failing to negotiate on the price – and warned of the rigid medical assessment system.
Striking a deal
But NHS England managed to strike a deal with Swiss manufacturer Roche to make the drug, which is delivered by a drip every three weeks, available.
Previously, patients could only access it through the Cancer Drugs Fund, before the responsibility was passed over to NICE last July.
In clinical trials, Kadcyla was shown to extend the lives of people with terminal cancer by an average of six months.
HOW DOES THE DRUG WORK?
Kadycla is for those with HER2-positive breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body and cannot be removed through surgery.
Women must have also failed on previous treatment, usually Herceptin.
Kadcyla, also called T-DM1, combines Herceptin with a potent chemotherapy agent.
It works by attaching itself to the HER2 receptor on cancer cells, blocking signals that encourage the cancer to grow and spread.
The chemotherapy element also goes inside the cell and causes it to die from within.
Kadcyla, which costs around £90,000 per patient, is given intravenously once every three weeks.
The drug, which normally costs £90,000 per patient, also dramatically improves quality of life, compared with other treatments, and reduces side-effects.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, said: ‘NHS cancer survival rates are now at record highs, and this year we’re going to be making major upgrades to modern radiotherapy treatments in every part of England.
‘NHS England is also taking practical action to drive greater value from taxpayers’ growing investment in modern drug treatments, and that work is beginning to bear fruit.
‘Today’s announcement on Kadcyla shows that for companies who are willing to work with us, there are concrete gains for them, for the NHS and most importantly for patients able to get new and innovative drugs.
‘In this case, tough negotiation and flexibility between the NHS and Roche means both patients and taxpayers are getting a good deal.’
Richard Erwin, general manager at Roche, said: ‘This is a positive example of how solutions can be reached when all parties show flexibility.’
However, details of the new discounted price that has been offered to NICE, which uses a very strict pricing criteria, are being kept confidential.
Breast cancer is the most common cancer in women in Britain with 45,000 new cases every year, of which 20 per cent are the HER2-positive form.
NICE’s decision to reverse its stance on Kadcyla in England was announced at the NHS Confederation conference in Liverpool.
ONE OF THE FIRST WOMEN IN ENGLAND TO GET THE DRUG
By Ben Spencer, Medical Correspondent for The Daily Mail
Fiona Leslie is one of the thousands of women in the UK living with incurable breast cancer – not that you would know it.
‘I have carried on working, I look after my husband, I care for my elderly mother,’ the 49-year-old from Aylesbury said.
‘I live as normal a life as you can do with secondary breast cancer.’
Mrs Leslie, who runs her own public relations business, puts her lifestyle down to one single factor – a breakthrough drug called Kadcyla.
‘When I was first diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2013 I had the treatment everyone does with primary breast cancer – mastectomy, radiotherapy, chemotherapy.’
Mrs Leslie, who is married to 64-year-old Ray Cross, underwent six rounds of chemotherapy before learning her cancer had spread to her lungs and the bones of her spine.
‘Chemotherapy is horrible,’ she said. ‘You are throwing up all the time, you lose your hair, you feel horrendous.’
But in April 2015 – just over two years ago – Mrs Leslie was one of the first women to gain access to Kadcyla.
‘It is like a walk in the park,’ she said. ‘I go to hospital to get it every three weeks, sometimes I feel tired, and it is always in the back of my mind.
‘But it’s an amazing treatment – you don’t lose your hair, you don’t have any nausea, there are very few side effects.’
The drug has also worked wonders – driving back the cancer throughout her body.
‘Basically the tumours in my spine have healed to the point where there is no evidence of active disease and the lung tumours have remained stable and not grown for two years,’ Mrs Leslie said.
She added: ‘I am absolutely thrilled and overcome at the decision today.
‘Kadcyla gives women with secondary breast cancer many extra months, and even years, of life with their families and friends.
‘To know that this opportunity was going to be taken away from other patients, many with young children, condemning them to an earlier death was simply horrific and cruel.
‘But this is not the end. The fight must go on as there are other effective drugs still being reviewed which may not be approved, putting other patients at risk too.’