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Skin cancer drugs approved 'for first time in over a decade'

Two new “breakthrough” skin cancer treatments have been approved by the NHS drugs watchdog.

Draft guidance by the National Institute for Health and Social Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended the use of Ipilimumab and Vemurafenib for the treatment of advanced skin cancer - the first new drugs to be approved for routine use on the NHS for the disease in more than ten years.

NICE's stamp of approval comes after the manufacturers of both drugs agreed to offer a discount, overturning a previous rejection of the treatments by the watchdog.

Vemurafenib, which is also known as Zelboraf and is manufactured by Roche, has been recommended for the treatment of melanoma that has spread.

Ipilimumab, marketed by Bristol-Myers Squibb under the name Yervoy, is recommended for the treatment of advanced melanoma in people who have previously received chemotherapy.

"We're delighted that discounts on the price of these drugs mean that NICE has been able to approve vemurafenib and ipilimumab for routine use on the NHS,” said Professor Peter Johnson, chief clinician at Cancer Research UK.

"Although they are not cures, these treatments represent real signs of progress through our understanding of biology for people with advanced skin cancer - a disease where new treatments are long overdue."

Health Technology Evaluation Centre director at NICE, Professor Carole Longson described the new drugs as "breakthrough treatments" for skin cancer, representing “a major step forwards for patients”.