Sanofi-Aventis’ Taxotere (docetaxel) is to be made available to Scotland’s National Health Service for treating patients with early-stage breast cancer, a move observers say comes two years before a decision from the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for England and Wales.

The Scottish Medicines Consortium – the country’s clinical and cost-effectiveness body – based its decision on a five-year study showing a 30% risk reduction in death for breast cancer patients treated with Taxotere plus background chemotherapy, versus those given conventional chemotherapy alone. The data, which were published in the New England Journal of Medicine earlier this year, also showed that the Taxotere combination reduced the risk of relapse by 28% [[03/06/05b]].

NICE, however, is not due to consider Taxotere until February 2007. The Institute has faced growing criticism over its delay in making life-saving drugs available more rapidly: the SMC recently gave the thumb’s up to another oncology agent – AstraZeneca’s Arimidex (anastrazole) – which will not come before NICE until November 2006 [[13/09/05d]].