The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recommended Eli Lilly’s Verzenios (abemaciclib) in combination with an aromatase inhibitor as treatment option for locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer.

Following an improved patient access scheme for Verzenios, it is now considered cost effective by the Institute and thus has been recommended as an option for these patients, meaning that they will be able to access the drug immediately.

Verzenios is one of a new type of drug called a CDK4/6 inhibitor. These are taken with an aromatase inhibitor, a type of anti-cancer drug which blocks the production of the hormone oestrogen, preventing it from stimulating the growth of some breast cancers. CDK4/6 inhibitors work by increasing the effect of aromatase inhibitors.

In October 2018, cost-regulators issued draft guidelines rejecting the drug, with NICE stating “once the patient access schemes are taken into account, abemaciclib is not cost effective relative to other [treatments]."

Verzenios was approved in Europe for the treatment of certain metastatic breast cancers in 2018, based on data from the Phase III MONARCH 2 and 3 trials, which found that combining the drug with an AI demonstrated a greater than 28-month median progression-free survival rate in patients who received initial endocrine-based therapy for metastatic disease.

Around 46,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year in England and Wales, of whom the company estimates as many as 8000 would be eligible for treatment with Verzenios.