In Brief

‘Life-changing’ breast cancer drugs approved for NHS use

Thousands of women to have access to treatment that slows the advancement of the disease

Thousands of women will be given NHS access to two “life-changing” drugs used to treat breast cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) has approved the use of ribociclib and palbociclib on the NHS. The drugs can slow down advanced cancer for at least ten months while also delaying the need for chemotherapy.

Palbociclib was initially rejected because of its high cost, the BBC reports.

“One cycle of palbociclib - or 21 capsules - costs £2,950 for a pack of 21. For 63 tablets of ribociclib, the price is the same,” it says.

However, following price negotiations, 8,000 people in England will now have access to the medications. 

Women with oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancer, diagnosed after the disease has spread, will be eligible for palbociclib, while those who meet the criteria and have gone through the menopause will be eligible for ribociclib. 

“It's a life-changing drug for thousands of women and in years to come as well,” journalist Vikki Orvice, who was prescribed palbociclib for a two-year trial, told the BBC Radio 4's Today programme. “You get slight fatigue from it, but it was manageable and I was on the highest dose possible.

“No one looking at me would have known I was ill,” she added. “You have a quality of life with so few side effects.” 

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive of Breast Cancer Now, told The Guardian: “Around 8,000 women each year can now be given significant extra time before their condition progresses – time that will be truly invaluable to them and their loved ones.”

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