Breast cancer drug is too expensive, says gov’t advisory group

Cancer CellsA government advisory committee is recommending that a new drug to treat an aggressive form of breast cancer should not be included in the basic health insurance package because it is too expensive, the NRC says on Friday.

The drug, Pertuzumab, should be halved in price to make it ‘cost effective’, the paper quotes the advisory group as saying.

Radboud teaching hospital cancer specialist Koos van der Hoeven told the paper this is the first time the committee has set limits on what a drug should cost.

Some 250 women with the HER2 variant of breast cancer are being treated with Pertuzumab, and their number is likely to double by 2017. The drug, which costs a basic €50,000 per patient per year, extends life expectancy by an average of 16 months.

However, including extra hospital visits and other spending, the total cost is nearer to €150,000 a year, the NRC says.

The Netherlands currently has a ceiling of €80,000 per year for drugs which extend quality of life for a similar period.

Cost effective

However, the NRC says, the minister is unlikely to remove Pertuzumab from the basic insurance package because ‘cost effectiveness’ does not play a real role in political decisions about drugs.

Nevertheless, there is some pressure in the Netherlands do look more closely at the cost effectiveness of expensive medicines and cancer charity KWF sounded the alarm last year.

In 2012, the healthcare institute, which finalises recommendations to the minister, said a drug for treating the muscle disease Pompe should be re-examined in light of the cost. That proposal was quickly dropped after an outcry in the media.

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