Doctors angry as minister refuses to pay for breast cancer drug (update)

Health minister Edith Schippers will not fund the use of a breast cancer drug which can extend the life of women who have an advanced form of the disease, the Telegraaf reports on Wednesday.

While some treatment will be funded, the drug’s makers had applied for a broader green light for the drug and the health insurance advisory council said not all forms of breast cancer are suitable.
The council, a government body which advises on what should be included in the standard health insurance package, has sanctioned some use of the medicine but says in some cases it has no added value.
Doctors told the Telegraaf the treatment prolongs life, is approved in nearly all EU countries and is registered with the European pharmaceutical authority EMA.
No hope
Lapatinib is a pill-based chemotherapy treatment for patients where cancer has spread and there is no hope they will make a recovery. The drug extends life expectancy considerably and stops the spread of cancer to the brain.
GlaxoSmithKlein has now stopped clinical trials of the drug involving 360 women because of the minister’s decision, the Volkskrant states.
Competitor Roche had also taken legal action against GlaxoSmithKlein because the drug, which competes with its own products, was free for women on the trial.
Cancer specialist Hans Nortier, who chairs the breast cancer research group, said the profession is united in its approval of the drug.
‘We have done research into this for four years and the results are well documented. It is unbelievable that we are not being listened to,’ he told the Telegraaf. ‘The only option now for patients is to go to court.’
In 2007, the government stopped including women over the age of 75 in breast cancer screening programmes, arguing it was not cost effective.
The Netherlands has the fourth highest breast cancer rate in the world.

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