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NICE approves kidney cancer drug

In a U-turn move, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) in England has approved the use of a kidney cancer drug that can extend life expectancy.

Patients with advanced forms of the cancer could soon, like their Welsh counterparts, be able to access the drug Sutent (sunitinib) on the NHS.

Its use had previously been rejected by NICE, but charities were outraged at the decision, arguing that patients only had one treatment option without it, to which many people do not respond.

NICE has now revised its original decision and is drafting guidance for use of the drug in a bid to issue final advice on Sutent in March.

Three other drugs - Avastin (bevacizumab), Nexavar (sorafenib) and Torisel (temsirolimus) - were also rejected by NICE, but its decision not to make these available is maintained, even though the Welsh health minister, Edwina Hart, announced that all four drugs would be made available to people in Wales at a cost of £600 a week per patient.

Around 7,000 people in the UK are diagnosed with kidney cancer each year, and 1,700 of these patients will be diagnosed with an advanced form of the disease.

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