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Can Nhs Afford Wonder Cancer Drug?


Active Member
Sep 10, 2004
A breast cancer drug that dramatically reduces the risk of relapse after surgery could soon be offered to thousands more patients in the UK.

Until now, anastrozole has only been available on the NHS to a restricted number of women with specific health problems.

But today a new licence from medicine regulators made it possible to give the drug to all post-menopausal women found to have early hormone-sensitive breast cancer after surgery.

It means that many thousands more women are now eligible for the drug, which is said to be 26 per cent more effective than the "gold standard" treatment tamoxifen.

However, its availability may be delayed by the fact that it costs several times more than tamoxifen.

The National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice), which vets new treatments, has not yet issued guidance on its use.

Expert Rob Carpenter, consultant surgical oncologist at St Bartholomew's Hospital in London, said: "This is the moment we have been waiting for. This news marks the beginning of a whole new era in breast cancer management."

Like tamoxifen, anastrozole - marketed under the brand name Arimidex - is used to treat breast cancer fuelled by the hormone oestrogen.

Three quarters of the 33,000 breast cancers diagnosed in the UK each year fall into this category.

Anastrozole works in a different way from tamoxifen, blocking the action of an enzyme, aromatase, that helps manufacture oestrogen.

Tamoxifen stops oestrogen binding on to breast tissue, and stimulating tumour growth.

Five year trial

The new licence from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency follows a major five-year trial involving 9,300 women comparing the benefits of the two drugs.