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Cancer patients hail drug U-turn

Bone cancer sufferers have praised the government's health watchdog for reversing a ruling that prevented them getting a vital drug on the NHS.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended a scheme to fund bortezomib (Velcade) for multiple myeloma sufferers in England and Wales.

Under the scheme - the first of its kind considered by NICE - the drug's manufacturer will refund the NHS if the treatment does not work.

The turnaround follows an appeal by cancer charities Myeloma UK, Cancerbackup and Leukaemia CARE, which argued NICE's initial rejection of Velcade six months ago was based on cost grounds, rather than effectiveness.

They said the decision was "perverse and unfair", particularly as the cost of the drug is just over the £30,000 threshold for NHS drugs.

NICE is recommending that "all suitable patients" have access to the treatment, with the NHS continuing to fund the drug for those who show a full or partial response.

Patients who do not benefit should be taken off the treatment, with the cost refunded by the manufacturer, Janssen-Cilag, NICE said.

The guidance is subject to a three-week consultation, with final approval tabled for October.

Myeloma patient Jacky Pickles, 45, one of a group of women campaigning for NICE approval of the drug, said: "We are absolutely delighted with this positive decision.

"But we want to make sure that there is no discrimination and that all sufferers get the treatment if they need it."


Myeloma UK


Leukaemia CARE

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