Charities have welcomed the decision to make a “truly life-changing drug” for women with breast cancer available on the NHS in Scotland.
Perjeta, which is also known as pertuzumab, can extend the life of patients with an advanced form of the disease by almost 16 months compared to other treatments.
The Scottish Medicines Consortium – which had three times rejected making it available on the NHS – has now agreed the drug can be given to patients with HER2-positive breast cancer that has returned to the breast but is inoperable, or when it has spread to other parts of the body.
The SMC approved Perjeta as a new treatment option before surgery for patients with early-stage breast cancer last month.
It has now made it available to patients living with secondary, incurable breast cancer.
More than 12,000 people had signed a petition from the charity calling for the treatment to be made available to women in Scotland.
That was after an SMC decision in June 2017 when it said the drug was “very expensive” and may not be “good use of limited NHS resources”.
The decision to make it available now comes after it heard from doctors and patients as part of its PACE process, which considers medicines used to treat very rare conditions or for patients reaching the end of life.
SMC chairman Dr Alan MacDonald said: “We know from the testimonies given through our PACE process how devastating this condition is for patients and their families and we hope this decision, which offers the opportunity of extra time when the patient feels well, will be welcomed by them.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman welcomed the announcement, saying: “This decision could extend the lives of women with incurable cancer and make a real difference to their families.”
She added the decision came after Perjeta was approved in December for women with early stage breast cancer and as a result “even more women will be able to benefit from this treatment”.
Ashleigh Simpson, policy and campaigns manager for Scotland at Breast Cancer Now, said: “We are absolutely delighted for patients that the SMC has finally been able to approve Perjeta for routine use on Scotland’s NHS.
“Perjeta is a truly life-changing drug and this decision will have a profound and far-reaching impact for so many Scottish women and their families.
“The benefits of this drug are extraordinary, offering women with incurable secondary breast cancer over four and a half years to live on average – nearly 16 precious extra months with their loved ones compared to existing treatments.”
Ms Simpson said: “We would like to thank every one of the 12,203 people who signed the Perjeta Now petition – you have helped ensure that hundreds of women with incurable breast cancer can be given more time to live.
“We are thrilled that the SMC, Roche and the Scottish Government have put patients first and worked together to ensure that women in Scotland can routinely access this life-extending drug.
“Today marks the end of a long wait for fair and equal access for Scottish patients. Going forward, the SMC, the Scottish Government and the industry must do all they can to ensure that highly-effective drugs like this can be made available to patients at prices the NHS can afford as soon as possible.”
Gregor McNie, Cancer Research UK’s head of external affairs in Scotland, said: “It’s been a long road to get to this point and this decision is truly fantastic news for patients and their loved ones affected.
“For patients in Scotland who have HER2-positive breast cancer that has returned to the breast or spread to other parts of the body, this decision means they now have another treatment option where few options currently exist.”
Richard Erwin, general manager for the drug’s manufacturer Roche, said: “We’re very pleased that Perjeta will now be available to metastatic breast cancer patients in Scotland.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton said: “I am over the moon that the SMC has today made life-extending drug Perjeta available through NHS Scotland.
“This is a great victory for campaigners and will be a huge boost to patients with breast cancer.”
Scottish Labour health spokeswoman Monica Lennon said: “This is fantastic news and tribute to the hard work of campaigners who made the case for Perjeta on our NHS.
“This medicine will have a potentially life changing effect for women and their families across Scotland.
“The difference this decision will make for families across Scotland, the opportunity for women diagnosed with secondary breast cancer to spend more time with their loved ones, is simply priceless.”