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Erbitux approved for bowel cancer

The life-extending bowel-cancer drug Erbitux (cetuximab) has been provisionally approved by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE).

It will be restricted to patients whose disease has spread to the liver and nowhere else.

The drug only works in patients who have the K-RAS wild type cancer gene. Of the two thirds of bowel-cancer sufferers who have the gene, it is also only effective in 60% of those. Patients will receive Erbitux for a maximum of 16 weeks.

Final guidance will be issued to the NHS in July if there are no appeals against it. Manufacturer Merck has agreed a 16% price reduction per patient.

Said Professor Peter Littlejohns, clinical and public health director at NICE: "The Committee concluded that under the specific circumstances outlined in the guidance, the cost of cetuximab in relation to how well it works is an effective use of NHS resources."

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