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Drug firm urged to cut cost of cancer medicine

28 October 2008

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Charities have urged a drug company to make its life-prolonging cancer treatment cheaper in a bid to make it available on the NHS.

Revlimid (lenalidomide) can extend the lives of patients with the deadly blood cancer multiple myeloma by up to three years. It is already available throughout Europe and used in more than 60 countries worldwide.

But health watchdog the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has initially ruled that Revlimid is not cost-effective enough to justify prescribing it on the NHS.

A one-month course of the drug costs £4,368, and the average cost per patient for the first year of treatment is around £36,000.

Three charities called on the drug’s manufacturers, Celgene, the Department of Health and NICE to find a way for Revlimid to be made available to NHS patients.

US-based Celgene Corporation, which has a UK subsidiary, may in the end be forced to accept a cost-cutting deal.

One solution would be a risk-sharing scheme whereby Celgene agrees to refund the NHS if a patient fails to respond to treatment.

Alternatively, Celgene could agree to a discount that starts to take effect after the first year of treatment and increases the longer a patient survives. An offer of one or two free courses of treatment is another possibility, or a straightforward price cut – the least likely option.

NICE will consult on Revlimid over the next three weeks before making its final recommendation in January.

Copyright © PA Business 2008


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