The Scottish Medicines Consortium has refused to recommend Pfizer’s new kidney cancer drug Sutent for use on the NHS, meaning patients, a decision which has been criticised by charities and medical professionals.

Pfizer, applied for Sutent (sunitinib) to be approved for use in patients who failed to respond to interferon-alpha, but the SMC ruled that "the economic case has not been demonstrated". The drug costs around £2,000 a month, compared to £700-800 for interferon.

Pat Hanlon, a spokesman Kidney Cancer UK, said: "We know the NHS has limited resources, but for patients with kidney cancer there are not many other treatments they can try.” The SMC also rejected Sanofi-Aventis’ obesity drug Acomplia (rimonabant) and Eli Lilly's Alimta (pemetrexed) for non-small cell lung cancer.

There was better news for Novartis as the SMC recommended Exjade (deferasirox) for the treatment of iron overload associated with of rare acquired or inherited anaemias. The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence, which covers the rest of the UK, has no current plans to review Exjade, and patients are having difficulty accessing this new therapy,” said Mike Michael, president of the United Kingdom Thalassaemia Society, who added that “we hope this positive SMC decision sends a clear signal to local funding bodies to provide this much needed therapy.”

However the SMC did not recommend the use of Exjade for patients with myelodysplastic syndromes and Novartis will be resubmitting an application to the SMC with additional data to support the use of Exjade in this patient population.