UK's NICE Rejects Long-Term Use of Tarceva for Lung Cancer Treatment

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Tarceva, a targeted once-a-day pill approved for two types of cancer, was rejected by Britain’s health cost watchdog group, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), for publicly funded, long-term use in lung cancer patients treatment because of its cost. NICE rules on which drugs should be paid for on the state-funded National Health Service (NHS) which services patients in England and Wales.

Tarceva, also known as erlotinib, is marketed by Roche and OSI Pharmaceuticals. It is approved as a second-line treatment for advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) and for combination therapy for first-line advanced pancreatic cancer.

For those with advanced NSCLC, Tarceva is prescribed to those whose cancer has spread after receiving at least one chemotherapy regimen. Early trial data indicates that the drug can potentially extend life by approximately 3.3 months in lung cancer patients.

NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon said, "In November 2008 we recommended erlotinib as a second-line treatment for non small cell lung cancer and we are disappointed not to have been able to recommend the drug as a maintenance treatment as well.”

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According to the group, Tarceva costs 1632 pounds (about $2400 US dollars) for a 30 day supply. Roche had proposed a “patient access scheme” that would drop the price to 1395 pounds ($2064).

"These issues led the committee to conclude that, on current evidence, the cost of the drug related to the benefits it brings means that erlotinib would not be a good use of NHS money," Dillon said in a statement.

The recommendation is still preliminary and is subject to a second round of consultations.

In Britain, lung cancer is one of the most common cancers with about 38,000 people diagnosed each year. About 8 to 9 cases of all lung cancers are the non-small cell type, according to the American Cancer Society. Maintenance treatment, a new concept for lung cancer, aims to prolong remission after first-line chemotherapy and maximize the quality of life.

For more on Tarceva, read:
Tarceva Found to Be Effective in Treating Lung Cancer
Lung Cancer Patients Get New Hope in Traceva

For recent news on non-small cell lung cancer, read:
Selenium, Lung Cancer Study Halted Due to No Benefit Found
Powerful Radiation May Help Inoperable Lung Cancer Patients

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