Wednesday 21 February 2018

Irish cancer patients may miss out on new, groundbreaking drug

Photo: Getty
Photo: Getty

Gordon Deegan

Irish patients suffering from melanoma skin cancer could miss out on a ground-breaking new drug which is being rolled out to patients in the UK.

Independent medicine cost watchdog the National Pharmaeconomics Centre (NCPE) has recommended that the HSE does not make Opdivo available through the public system.

This is at odds with a recent decision by the NCPE's UK counterpart which recommended that the drug, estimated to cost £5,700 (€7,217) per patient per month in the UK, is to be available through the NHS system.

Research has found that melanoma patients survive much longer on Opdivo, which is administered by drip, than those given conventional chemotherapy.

The company behind the drug, Bristol Myers Squib (BMS), told the NCPE that the gross cost to the HSE of Opdivo over the first five years will be €98m and its net cost will be €17.6m.

The estimated cost by BMS is based on treatment with Opdivo being capped to a maximum of two years treatment duration.

However, the NCPE Review Group considered this time frame may potentially under-estimate the gross budget impact since there is no evidence to support the discontinuation of treatment at two years.

Last year, BMS recorded global sales of $942m from Opdivo. BMS submitted revised figures to the NCPE last month but the review group stated that following a review, Opdivo is not considered to be cost-effective. The NCPE doesn't state what the cost per patient would be for Opdivo.

A spokeswoman for the HSE said it was required to manage financial provisions for new medicines to the best of its ability, providing access to as wide a range of new medicines as possible in a clinically appropriate, fair, consistent and sustainable manner.

The drug will now be reviewed by the National Cancer Control Programme Technology Review Committee and will be sent to the HSE Drugs Committee for final funding decision if given a positive recommendation.

Irish Independent

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