Roche: Scotland needs funding for rejected cancer meds

Roche ($RHHBY) is not happy with Scotland. The Scottish Medicines Consortium won't approve Avastin for use in ovarian cancer. That's not unprecedented; the consortium has blocked Avastin use before. Plus, England's National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has nixed several indications for Roche's cancer treatment, though it has yet to rule on the ovarian cancer use.

But in England, patients have recourse. They can apply, via their doctors, for Avastin reimbursement from a special fund set up for cancer meds not approved by NICE. In fact, the Cancer Drugs Fund gets more requests for Avastin than for any other drug, a recent report showed. Almost one-quarter of its requests over the 12 months ended in March, in fact.

Patient advocates in Scotland were none too pleased about the consortium's decision, either. "[Avastin is] available in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund, so it is frustrating that patients in Scotland are prevented from accessing it," said Anwen Jones, chief executive of Target Ovarian Cancer (as quoted by The Herald).

So, Roche figures, Scotland needs its own fund for rejected cancer treatments. "The majority of eligible [ovarian cancer] patients in England already have access to it ... In Scotland, almost no patients have access," said John Melville, Roche's U.K. general manager, adding that clinical research could suffer from the consortium's stonewalling. "The Scottish Government must act to prevent Scotland falling behind England in access to innovative drugs," he said.

- see the Herald story
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