Novartis’ stomach tumour therapy Glivec (imatinib) is a giant leap closer to being funded by the NHS in England after cost regulators again endorsed its use.

Following a consultation period, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has this morning published draft guidance recommending the use of Glivec for up to three years in patients who have had a gastro-intestinal stromal tumour (GIST) removed and are at high risk of the cancer recurring. 

Originally the Institute felt the drug didn’t offer the NHS value for money, but further clinical evidence subsequently submitted by Novartis helped determine its cost-effectiveness in the proposed setting. Now “there is clear evidence that giving imatinib after surgery can delay the recurrence of GIST and in some cases increase survival,” said Professor Carole Longson, Health Technology Evaluation Centre Director at NICE, explaining the change of heart.

The Committee concluded that the cost per QALY (Quality Adjusted Life Year) was between £3,610 and £12,100 for one-year adjuvant Glivec compared with no adjuvant treatment, and between £16,700 and £30,000 for three-year adjuvant Glivec compared with one-year adjuvant Glivec, falling within normal cost-effectiveness thresholds.