Hodgkin’s lymphona sufferers in England face ‘postcode lottery’ over drug

Some patients with a rare form of cancer could be facing a postcode lottery as to whether or not they will receive a biological therapy drug, a charity has warned.

Some patients with Hodgkin’s lymphoma in Scotland and Wales have already been granted access to the drug brentuximab vedotin but under new proposals, English patients may be denied access to the medication.

In preliminary draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has said that there is not enough evidence on the drug’s clinical and cost effectiveness to recommend it for patients in England.

The therapy – also known as Adcetris, which is manufactured by Takeda UK – is used to treat CD30-positive Hodgkin’s lymphoma – a rare cancer of the immune system where the condition has relapsed after first-line chemotherapy and/or radiotherapy, or the use of stem cell therapy.

Nice said around 50 to 60 patients are eligible for the drug each year, which costs between £69,000 and £87,000 per patient per course.

Professor Carole Longson, director of the Centre for Health Technology Evaluation at Nice, said: “We recognise that people with this type of Hodgkin’s lymphoma are difficult to treat, but there is not enough convincing evidence on brentuximab vedotin’s clinical and cost effectiveness to recommend its use within the NHS as representing value for money.

“We understand that this preliminary decision will be disappointing to patients who could be eligible for treatment. But we need to make sure that the drugs and treatments we look at will benefit patients and be a cost effective use of NHS resources.”

Commenting on the news, Jonathan Pearce, chief executive of the Lymphoma Association, said: “The news that Hodgkin’s lymphoma patients could lose access to a drug that has been available for some time through the former Cancer Drugs Fund is of concern.

“The decision means patients will be denied access to a treatment option that has been successful for a number of patients and, consequently, will limit positive outcomes for this group of patients – some of whom could be cured.

“We would urge Takeda, Nice and clinicians to work together to reassess the decision and find a cost-effective solution that would ensure patients in England have access to the best possible treatments available and to avoid a postcode lottery across the UK.”

Until final guidance is issued to the NHS, brentuximab vedotin will still be available to patients in the old Cancer Drugs Fund, Nice said.

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