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Life-prolonging drug fight won

Patients with kidney cancer in the UK will now have access on the NHS to an expensive drug which can prolong their lives.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that the drug sunitinib be made available.

NICE has allowed the drug, which is marketed as Sutent, to be prescribed straight away to people suffering with advanced kidney cancer.

The drug can help to prolong the lives of patients by a number of months and in some cases more than two years.

Last year NICE ruled against making sunitinib available on the NHS because it said it was not cost-effective enough. However, claims then followed that patients with the disease were being sentenced to early death.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium, Scotland's version of NICE, also refused to allow the drug in 2007, but following this latest recommendation it has changed its decision.

Sunitinib costs about £24,000 a year per patient.

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National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence