The drug – which can give women with incurable HER2 positive secondary breast cancer nearly 16 months additional life compared to existing treatments – was rejected by the SMC on the grounds that it was not considered to be cost effective for the NHS in Scotland.
Perjeta is used as a first-line treatment in combination with Herceptin and docetaxel for patients who have not previously received anti-HER2 therapy or chemotherapy for the disease. Manufactured by Roche, it’s a targeted therapy, which means it targets the HER2 receptors on breast cancer cells and leaves healthy cells untouched – enabling patients’ to have a much better quality of life during treatment.
The drug extends the time that patients are able to live without their breast cancer progressing by an additional six months – and gives nearly 16 months of additional life on average – compared to the alternative treatment option of Herceptin and docetaxel alone.
Leading charity Breast Cancer Now has today – in an open letter to the SMC and Roche – urged both parties to come to the table with them to look at how the issues preventing Perjeta being made available on the NHS in Scotland can be addressed.
Mary Allison, Breast Cancer Now’s Director for Scotland said: “This is a bitterly disappointing decision for women with incurable HER2 positive secondary breast cancer in Scotland.
“Perjeta is a targeted medicine that can give these women nearly 16 months of good quality extra time to live. That’s more precious time with the ones they love.
“The consequences of today’s decision cannot be underestimated. Patients will miss out on a medicine that could keep them alive for significantly longer. They, and their loved ones, will now have no choice but to pay for this drug themselves or appeal to the NHS individually to receive it.
“This is now the third time that this extremely effective drug has been rejected by the SMC. We now urge the SMC and Roche to come together with us to discuss what needs to happen to ensure this life-extending treatment can be made available to patients in Scotland.”
Alison Tait, from Edinburgh is a single parent living with HER2 positive secondary breast cancer. She has been receiving Perjeta privately through her medical insurance but her future access to the drug is uncertain. She said: “I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to access Perjeta but I worry about the future. My health insurance company has agreed to fund the drug for a year but I’m not sure what will happen after this point. It’s frightening.
“Being there for my daughter Ellen is everything to me. It’s just the two of us and she needs me. The SMC’s decision to decline Perjeta is a huge blow for women like me - and it has massive implications for me and my family.
“I know that nothing in life is a sure thing but I deserve the chance to live. How can the SMC and Roche put a price on my life like this?”
Perjeta is currently available in England via the Cancer Drugs Fund, and with the drug currently undergoing NICE appraisal, a decision is expected soon on whether Perjeta will be available routinely on the NHS south of the border.