Rejection of cancer drug in Scotland criticised

DOCTORS and a patients’ charity have criticised the decision by Scotland’s medicines regulator to reject the use of a drug on the NHS for people with an otherwise untreatable skin cancer.

The makers of ipilimumab claim that with a funding package in place the cost per patient of providing the drug for people with malignant melanoma is £45,000 and this on average adds between four and five months to patients’ lives.

But the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC), responsible for approving medicines for use by NHS Scotland, yesterday rejected the treatment for such melanoma, which affects around 1200 patients in Scotland each year, saying it was not value for money.

The drug is marketed as Yervoy by drugs firm Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMS) and is currently available south of the Border under the Cancer Drugs Fund while the SMC’s English equivalent Nice considers its position on providing the drug.

Leigh Smith of Melanoma Action and Support Scotland said: “It leaves many Scottish patients suffering from this devastating disease with no option but to consider moving to England where funding for the treatment can potentially be accessed.”

Although the drug can theoretically be accessed on a case by case basis in Scotland since it gained European approval in 2011, BMS believes no such applications had been granted.

The SMC said: “SMC did not accept ipilimumab because weaknesses in the economic case submitted by the company and the justification of costs in relation to benefits meant the medicine was not considered to offer value for money.”