Healthcare: On the agenda - NICE cancer drug ruling under fire

In a nutshell

Bowel Cancer UK has criticised NICE, the Government's health watchdog and drug rationing body, after it turned down bowel cancer drug Avastin for use on the NHS. NICE had said the cost of Avastin - about £21,000 per patient - did not justify its benefits.

- Why is this important?

This is the second time NICE has turned down Avastin. The drug was originally appraised for use in 2006. It is used in the US and Europe, but patients in the UK have to buy the drug privately or appeal to their local health authority for funds.

- How does the drug work?

Bevacizumab is a biological agent or targeted therapy that works alongside chemotherapy to help shrink and remove tumours that have spread from the bowel to other parts of the body. It offers patients a few extra weeks or months of life.

PR support

Bowel Cancer UK sent out a statement under embargo to coincide with NICE's announcement. Campaigns director Ian Beaumont was the spokesman. In interviews he said the charity was 'disappointed' that NICE had turned down Avastin for use on the NHS, when it was 'so widely available' in the rest of Europe.

Media coverage

Beaumont appeared on GMTV and BBC Breakfast to criticise the decision. He also did interviews with BBC Radio and Radio 5 Live. The Daily Mail also covered the story on its front page under the headline 'Why can't we have this drug?'

37.5k people are diagnosed with bowel cancer every year

97% of cases in the UK occur in people aged over 50

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