Breast cancer

22 October 2014

Petition calls for reduction of breast cancer drug price

A petition started in Britain is demanding that drug-maker Roche, reduces the price of their breast cancer drug, Kadcyla.


A British-led petition signed by 29,000 people has demanded that Switzerland's Roche, the world's biggest maker of cancer medicines, cut the price of its expensive new breast cancer drug Kadcyla.

The campaign shows the growing pressure on drug companies as a raft of promising new cancer treatments reach the market. U.S. insurers also say they are alarmed by a coming flood of cancer medicines with "astronomical price tags", while pricing rows have flared in France and Italy.

Kadcyla can add about half a year to the lives of some women with inoperable breast cancer but Britain's cost watchdog NICE estimates it costs about 90,000 pounds ($145,000) per patient and is too pricey for the state-run health service.

Roche argues the cost reflects the benefits offered by its innovative treatment. It also disputes the headline price cited by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE).

NICE bases its calculation on a mean treatment course of 14.5 months, whereas the median length of treatment in clinical trials - the measure Roche believes is more relevant - was 9.6 months, reducing the cost per patient significantly.

The Care2 petition, calling on Roche Chief Executive Severin Schwan to reduce the price of Kadcyla to a level public health services can afford, was started by British breast cancer survivor Margaret Connolly.

Kadcyla combines the antibody used in Roche's established Herceptin drug and a tumour-killing payload that is delivered directly into cancer cells, causing fewer chemotherapy-related side effects such as hair loss.

It is one of a number of targeted therapies that are revolutionising cancer care. Other promising new approaches include a range of drugs to help the immune system fight cancer, which also carry a high price.

Read more:
New breast cancer drug shows unprecedented results
Can your bra really give you breast cancer?
Focused approach to determine breast cancer risk


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Breast cancer expert

Dr Gudgeon qualified in Birmingham, England, in 1968. She has more than 40 years experience in oncology, and in 1994 she founded her practice, Cape Breast Care, where she treats benign and malignant breast cancers. Dr Boeddinghaus obtained her qualification at UCT Medical School in 1994 and her MRCP in London in 1998. She has worked extensively in the field of oncology and has a special interest in the hormonal management of breast cancer. She now works with Dr Gudgeon at Cape Breast Care. Read more.

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