The cheap drug anastrozole could save 4,000 a year from breast cancer

Kat Lay in The Times 29th September 2014 reports: The cheap drug anastrozole could save 4,000 a year from breast cancer 

Of course this drug was never cheap until it had run out of patent. I expect the opinion voiced in the article would ever have been aired whilst the drug was under patent….Now it is generic the good news is that it could save many more lives… But the rationing system inherent in the need for a new trial will ensure delay.. Who should/will conduct the trial..?

Thousands of women are being denied a 7p-a-day drug that could halve their chances of developing breast cancer, according to two leading charities.

Experts have said that if all post-menopausal women with a high to moderate risk of the disease were given anastrozole, almost 4,000 lives a year could be saved. NHS red tape means that they are unable to access the drug, however, while new research suggests that many women may not be aware that they are among the 10 per cent at higher risk.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) recommends that women deemed to be at moderate or high risk of breast cancer should be offered the chemoprevention drugs tamoxifen and raloxifene, which reduce the risk of getting the disease by around 35 per cent if taken daily for five years. However, trial data published after the guidance was released showed that anastrozole, already licensed for treatment, prevented 53 per cent of cases over the same time frame.

Professor Tony Howell, director of research at the Genesis breast cancer prevention charity, said that NICE was not expected to revisit its guidance for years, and that in the meantime women would struggle to access the drug, which has “very few” side effects.

Baroness Morgan of Drefelin, chief executive of Breast Cancer Campaign, said that the healthcare system was geared toward creating new drugs, rather than repurposing older ones. “There aren’t the same drivers in the system to give this new evidence the push that it needs to get into practice,” she said. For a drug to be licensed for a new purpose, its manufacturer must apply to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), a process costing thousands of pounds. Professor Howell said that companies were uninterested in doing that for a 30-year-old product…..

…Women with the highest density are twice as likely to develop the disease compared to those with average breast density. The research also found that women did not realise that factors such as age, weight or having a first pregnancy at a later age could put them at higher risk.

NICE said that it reviewed its guidance at regular intervals.

An MHRA spokesman said that it would need to receive a medicines licence application in order to approve anastrozole for chemoprevention.

This entry was posted in A Personal View, Good News, Rationing, Stories in the Media on by .

About Roger Burns - retired GP

I am a retired GP and medical educator. I have supported patient participation throughout my career, and my practice, St Thomas; Surgery, has had a longstanding and active Patient Participation Group (PPG). I support the idea of Community Health Councils, although I feel they should be funded at arms length from government. I have taught GP trainees for 30 years, and been a Programme Director for GP training in Pembrokeshire 20 years. I served on the Pembrokeshire LHG and LHB for a total of 10 years. I completed an MBA in 1996, and I along with most others, never had an exit interview from any job in the NHS! I completed an MBA in 1996, and was a runner up for the Adam Smith prize for economy and efficiency in government in that year. This was owing to a suggestion (St Thomas' Mutual) that practices had incentives for saving by being allowed to buy rationed out services in the following year.

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