UK charity Breast Cancer Now is petitioning Roche to cut the price of its breast cancer drug Kadcyla - temporarily at least - so that it can remain available to patients in England through the Cancer Drugs Fund.

Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) is the first and only targeted chemotherapy for secondary breast cancer, but it comes at an estimated cost of around £90,000 per course. 

NHS England announced earlier this month that the drug is in danger of being axed from the CDF come November, which means new applications for treatment will not be considered from this point if cost negotiations with Roche are unsuccessful.

The charity believes responsibility now lies with the manufacturer to temporarily drop the price down to a level that the NHS can afford, as it is the only option to ensure continued access for patients, “until the wider problems with the system of access to drugs are worked through”.

“Time is running out for patients living with incurable secondary breast cancer for whom Kadcyla would be their next treatment option”, said Baroness Delyth Morgan, Breast Cancer Now’s chief executive. “We need a completely overhauled system of pricing and access, but until this is finally in place, Roche must do the right thing and take steps to keep this amazing drug available through the Cancer Drugs Fund.”

Discounts 'too high'

But a spokesperson for Roche told PharmaTimes Digital that the discounts being sought by NHS England for individual drugs - including Kadcyla - are simply too high. That is why the company is offering the NHS potential savings of some £15 million but spread across the four of its medicines currently available through the CDF, even for those not in danger of being de-listed.

“We want to safeguard access to all four Roche medicines currently funded through the CDF,” said Deborah Lancaster, Director, Roche Products, in an emailed statement.

Along with others Breast Cancer Now has campaigned for some time for the government and pharma to address the ongoing issue of access and pricing for new and effective cancer treatments, but “progress has been slow and neither government nor industry are any closer to a solution that works for the NHS, the industry, or for patients”, the charity said.

A consultation on proposals to reform the current system is expected to be launched by NHS England in coming weeks.