Kidney Cancer Association Applauds UK's Decision to Approve Drug for Hard-to-Treat Advanced Stage Kidney Cancer

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Change of Tack Shows Policy Shift and Saves Lives

The lesson for us here in the U.S. is to weigh clinical trial data and make scientifically-based decisions, not cost decisions disguised in the new vernacular as 'comparative effectiveness'

The National Institute of Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), the review body for the UK's National Health Service, yesterday reversed an earlier decision and approved a drug for metastatic renal cell carcinoma. The decision marks an enormous victory for advanced-stage kidney cancer patients as well as the advocates who applied pressure on NICE to change their policy regarding lifesaving drugs for terminal patients.

"This decision demonstrates the power of a unified voice," said William Bro, president of the Kidney Cancer Association. "Patient advocates won't sit back and watch decisions be made about their loved ones lives based on cost, not science. This drug and the three others still being reviewed are proven to be effective and we are delighted that thousands of deserving patients in the U.K. finally have access to life-saving drugs."

The drug, sunitinib (Sutent) is a novel, oral treatment that shows overall survival greater than two years in advanced kidney cancer patients. In September 2008, NICE advised against the use of Sutent and three other drugs (Avastin, Nexavar and Torisel). The decision reflects a change in policy guidelines that give greater consideration to the value that society places on end-of-life treatments.

"The risk you run with a single payer system such as the one in the UK is that treatments are sometimes rationed due to cost, thus creating a burdensome and timely process for patients and their physicians to get exceptions for access to the drug," said Bro. "The lesson for us here in the U.S. is to weigh clinical trial data and make scientifically-based decisions, not cost decisions disguised in the new vernacular as 'comparative effectiveness'"

The Kidney Cancer Association, established in 1990, is a voluntary health organization that serves patients and their families in more than 100 countries from its suburban Chicago offices.

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Carolyn Konosky
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