NICE rejects four cancer meds

The debate over costly oncology meds rages on in the U.K. as the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence rejected four high-tech drugs for advanced kidney cancer treatment: Sutent (Pfizer), Avastin (Roche), Nexavar (Bayer) and Torisel (Wyeth). NICE acknowledged that the drugs do extend life--by up to six months--but concluded that the money would be better spent on other patients.

The decision drew immediate fire, not only from patient advocates, but from cancer researchers and doctors, too. One doctor said there was no point in accepting referrals for advanced kidney cancer patients without those drugs, because most don't respond to the only other alternative, interferon.

The outcry might actually have some effect: NICE initially rejected Herceptin outright for breast cancer treatment, then relented after receiving an outpouring of complaint. The agency's final kidney cancer treatment guidance will come through in January.

- read the story in the Times
- check out the Telegraph's coverage