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Last Updated: Monday, 9 July 2007, 13:15 GMT 14:15 UK
Cancer drug rejected for NHS use
Tablets (generic)
The drug is used to treat kidney cancer
A charity has described a decision not to approve a kidney cancer drug for use in the NHS in Scotland as a "death sentence" to hundreds of patients.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium ruled that the benefits of Sutent (Sunitinib) did not yet justify its high cost.

The James Whale Fund said the drug is the most effective first-line treatment for advanced kidney cancer.

The drug's manufacturers Pfizer said it would be resubmitting a proposal to the SMC based on new evidence.

The firm said since the decision was made, new clinical trial data has become available that shows even greater benefit to patients.

South of the border, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has not yet made a decision on whether the drug can be used in the NHS.

The SMC has effectively issued a death sentence to the 660 patients living with kidney cancer in Scotland
James Whale
Charity founder

The James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer expressed "anger and disbelief" at the decision.

"By deciding not to fund Sutent the SMC has effectively issued a death sentence to the 660 patients living with kidney cancer in Scotland," founder James Whale said.

"Despite the overwhelming evidence supporting Sutent doctors will be forced to say 'no' to patients who need access to this life-saving treatment."

The charity said the SMC's decision not to back Sutent in Scotland will also effect about 6,000 patients in England and Wales.

It said history has shown that the majority of primary care trusts across the UK usually follow the SMC's decision.

The drug which has been licensed, costs about 22,000 for nine months.

High cost

Dr David Gillen, Pfizer medical director, said: "Clearly we are disappointed in this initial ruling as it will prolong the struggle for many people with advanced kidney cancer currently fighting to access Sunitinib, potentially costing them precious months of life.

"We're committed to doing all we can to make this drug more widely available and we are hopeful that these new data will enable the SMC to recommend the use of Sunitinib in kidney cancer patients in Scotland."

An SMC spokesman said it was "truly disappointed" not to be able to recommend Sutent.

"After analysing the manufacturer's own submission, we feel that there are significant uncertainties in evidence and calculations, leading us to conclude that Sunitinib's high cost in relation to its benefits has not yet been justified," he said.

"We are delighted to learn from the manufacturer that the evidence supporting the efficacy of this drug is increasing.

"We would be pleased to receive revised information at the earliest opportunity for inclusion in our rapid assessment process."

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