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Cancer patients denied drug on NHS

Patients suffering from head and neck cancer are to be denied a new drug on the NHS because it is claimed it does not offer better or cheaper treatment than existing drugs.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence has rejected cetuximab (branded Erbitux and produced by Merck) for cancer patients in England and Wales. The decision is subject to appeal.

Campaigners said the move is a blow to patients as the drug is the first one licensed in the last 40 years for treating locally advanced head and neck cancer.

In January, NICE also rejected an appeal from charities over its decision to reject Erbitux for bowel cancer patients.

A Mouth Cancer Foundation spokesman said: "This is an extremely sad day. NICE has effectively denied them this new treatment option for a chance to live longer.

"There is now a postcode lottery as the Scottish Medicines Consortium has approved not only cetuximab, but also docetaxel for Scottish patients."

National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence