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NICE recommends new life-extending drug for pancreatic cancer patients

Wednesday 9th August 2017
Life-extending drug Abraxane is being recommended by NICE for pancreatic cancer patients on the NHS. Image: royaltystockphoto via iStock
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A new life-extending drug is to be made available to pancreatic cancer patients on the NHS, it has been revealed.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended that nab-paclitaxel - which is marketed by its manufacturer Celgene under the brand name Abraxane - should be prescribed to patients with advanced pancreatic cancer.

This marks a u-turn from its 2015 ruling, which did not deem Abraxane to be a cost-effective option for patients on the NHS. However, after reviewing its guidance, NICE has changed its mind and is now recommending the drug for routine NHS use for pancreatic cancer patients.

Currently, less than one per cent of those diagnosed with this disease survive for ten years, with around 10,000 new cases identified every year. As a result, the NICE approval of Abraxane has the potential to extend a significant number of lives without unwelcome side effects.

The drug works by preventing the proteins contained within cancer cells from growing and dividing, which stops the disease from spreading further around the body, giving patients more time.

NICE recommends that it will be most appropriate for patients for whom other combination chemotherapy treatments are unsuitable. If this is the case, the healthcare body states that Abraxane should be offered as an alternative.

Trials involving the drug have shown it to be most effective when prescribed alongside the standard form of chemotherapy known as gemcitabine. Together, these treatments can help to extend the life of a patient with pancreatic cancer by an average of 2.4 months.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE, commented: "The life expectancy of pancreatic cancer is poor, with patients usually living for only up to six months.

"It's incredibly important that patients and families affected by this disease are able to have routine access to this life-extending treatment."

Written by James Puckle

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