Patients denied thyroid cancer drug in England

Patients in England could wait almost three years to access Eisai’s Lenvima (lenvatinib) thyroid cancer drug as it has fallen down a “black hole” in the funding approval system.

Lenvima is not in the re-launched Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), which pays for certain oncology drugs rejected by NICE, and the cost-effectiveness body will not publish guidance until at least 2018.

The drug was not appraised before the old CDF was closed earlier this year.

At that time Lenvima did not qualify for NICE review because it would have a low budget impact for the NHS.

Eisai has said it will consider all options, including possible legal action, to secure fair and equitable access for people with rarer cancers.

Lenvatinib is indicated for the treatment of adults with progressive locally advanced or metastatic, differentiated (papillary, follicular, Hürthle cell) thyroid carcinoma (DTC), refractory to radioactive iodine (R-RAI).

Gary Hendler, chairman and chief executive of Eisai, EMEA, said: “It is sad that patients living in England cannot access lenvatinib for advanced thyroid cancer which was developed and manufactured in this country.

“We believe there is an immediate solution, a transitional arrangement, to allow patients access to a treatment which has been disproportionately delayed by the changes in the CDF process. Eisai may be forced to consider its level of investment in the UK because it is unacceptable that drugs which are manufactured in England cannot be provided to people in Englan0d, without delays of many years.”

Kate Farnell, founder of the Butterfly Thyroid Cancer Trust, said the situation is “unacceptable”.

This is not the first time that Eisai has complained about the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Under the old CDF system, some drugs were ‘de-listed’ from the fund in order to curb its growing overspend, which included Eisai’s Halaven (eribulin), which was earmarked for removal in January 2015.  However by March, an appeal by Eisai meant that the drug was retained on the Fund.

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