The UK's National Institute for Clinical Excellence is reconsidering its position that erythropoietin-based drugs should not be given to cancer patients suffering from anaemia.

In July, the NICE, which looks at the cost-effectiveness of drugs prescribed under the UK’s National health Service, concluded that products such as Roche’s NeoRecormon (epoetin beta), Johnson & Johnson’s Procrit (epoetin alfa) and Amgen’s Aranesp (darbepoetin alfa) should not be used in this setting, except in the context of research studies.

At the time, the Institute’s technology appraisal committee said that EPO drugs cost around £5,000 per course of treatment and that there was a need to make more effective use of the NHS' resources. But after an appeal by drugmakers, clinicians and patient groups, it will look into the matter again.

A spokesperson for Roche said the company welcomed the NICE’s decision and said the company and other appellants were looking forward to hearing what form that re-appraisal process would take.

NICE could not be reached for comment by the time PharmaTimes World News went to press, but their official statement on the matter can be read here.

There are over a million people living with cancer in the UK, and about 7 in 10 patients may experience anaemia during chemotherapy. This ties in with a survey of European cancer patients which demonstrated that the overall incidence of anaemia was greater than 50%, and that up to 67% experienced anaemia at some time.