Breast cancer charity calls on Roche to drop price of Kadcyla

Roche is being called on to drop the price of its breast cancer drug Kadcyla in the UK so that patients can keep receiving the treatment.

The drug is set to be ‘de-listed’ from England’s Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) from 4 November, and the charity Breast Cancer Now says a price cut would allow this decision to be reversed.

The charity has today launched a petition calling on the pharma company to cut its price for the drug, which is estimated to cost £90,000 per patient. Breast Cancer Now spoke out on this price last year, calling it ‘incredibly expensive’, and has now decided to increase the pressure on Roche.

The £90,000 figure is the drug’s list price: Roche offered a discount last year in its confidential negotiations with NICE, but even after this cut the drug didn’t meet NICE’s cost-effectiveness criteria. Patients in England were already getting access to the drug via the CDF, but its leaders now plan to pull the plug on Kadcyla as they seek to cut its budget overspend.

Breast Cancer Now’s move is a significant development, representing a major break from convention. UK charities are usually reluctant to single out pharma companies for criticism in these situations, with most groups instead focusing on shortcomings in NICE or CDF appraisal systems.

The advocacy group still believes the system needs to be reformed, but has made it clear that Roche’s high price is the main sticking point.

Breast Cancer Now, the UK’s largest breast cancer charity, says it believes that it is Roche’s responsibility to drop the price to “a level that the NHS can afford”.

Baroness Delyth Morgan, Chief Executive at Breast Cancer Now, said:

“Time is running out for patients living with incurable secondary breast cancer for whom Kadcyla would be their next treatment option. The situation is becoming increasingly desperate; it’s time for Roche to act, and make this one-of-a-kind treatment available at a price that the NHS can afford.

“We need a completely overhauled system of pricing and access, but until this is finally in place, Roche must do the right thing and take steps to keep this amazing drug available through the Cancer Drugs Fund.”

Kadcyla is licensed to treat women with HER2-positive breast cancer which is no longer responding to Roche’s existing drug Herceptin (trastuzumab) and chemotherapy, either docetaxel or paclitaxel.

Kadcyla is a ‘smart bomb’ drug, combining Herceptin (trastuzumab) and a very potent chemotherapy drug, DM1, which is delivered only to the cancer cells, and sparing healthy cells, thereby sparing patients the side-effects of conventional chemotherapy.

Trials show the drug adds on average of six months of extra, good quality life, but the charity says it knows of many women who have seen their lives extended by years.

There are plans currently being proposed to reform the Cancer Drugs Fund, turning it into a ”managed access fund’ from April 2016. This would mean that new drugs that are highly promising but have insufficient data can be launched on the NHS without delay. Companies would then be given a limited period to produce more data, both through clinical trials and real world use, to prove value or else face reimbursement being removed.

Breast Cancer Now has been campaigning for some time for the Government and the pharmaceutical industry to work together to come up with an answer to access and pricing problems for new cancer treatments. However it says progress has been slow, and they are “no closer to a solution that works for the NHS, the industry, or for patients.”

To charity is urging people to sign its petition and support its Unlock Drugs Campaign.

Breast Cancer Now says it is only calling for a ‘temporary price drop’ in order to keep Kadcyla on the Cancer Drugs Fund, providing more time for the wider access to medicines questions to be resolved.

It’s not the first time Roche has faced a petition – last year two online campaigns called for it to lower its prices, including one organised by UK cancer patient Margaret Connolly.

Roche has yet to respond to Breast Cancer Now’s petition, but will be reluctant to enter into a public row with a charity. This latest development reflects growing controversy about the price of medicines, in Europe but especially in the US.

Don't miss your daily pharmaphorum news.
SUBSCRIBE free here.