Women in Scotland will be among the first in the UK to have routine NHS access to Roche’s breast cancer drug Kadcyla after a landmark u-turn by cost regulators endorsed funding for the drug.

Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) is intended to treat HER2-positive breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body that cannot be surgically removed and has stopped responding to initial treatment, but it costs around £90,000 per patient at its full list price.

The drug was turned down by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC) back in October 2014, while, in England, though it is available through the Cancer Drug's Fund the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence’s stance continues to be that it is too costly for routine NHS use in England and Wales.

Now the SMC is allowing use of Kadcyla on the NHS as monotherapy for women with this type of aggressive breast cancer who previously received trastuzumab and a taxane, separately or in combination. Patients should have either received prior therapy for locally advanced or metastatic disease, or developed disease recurrence during or within six months of completing adjuvant therapy.

“Women with advanced HER2-positive breast cancer in Scotland will now be able to access Kadcyla, which is clinically proven to extend their lives by an average of 5.8 months compared to the previous standard of care. For women with short life expectancies, this extra time is significant; potentially allowing them to spend one more Christmas, birthday or anniversary with their loved ones,” noted Richard Erwin, general manager, Roche UK.

“Throughout the reassessment of Kadcyla, Roche has worked collaboratively with patient groups and groups within NHS Scotland to find a solution that makes this important life-extending medicine available for women in Scotland. Roche has offered an improved patient access scheme, which has been accepted by the SMC.

“This demonstrates that when we all work together, we can find successful solutions that work for patients and the health system alike.”

The SMC’s decision comes after a campaign led by Breast Cancer Now which saw more than 13,000 women sign a petition for NHS access to the drug.

“This decision will transform treatment options for women with HER2 positive secondary breast cancer in Scotland,” noted Mary Allison, Breast Cancer Now’s Director for Scotland.

“We are pleased that the SMC and Roche have worked together to unlock this revolutionary drug. We hope this will be just the start of improved access to breast cancer medicines in Scotland.”

It is estimated that around 118 women in Scotland could benefit from treatment with Kadcyla every year.