NICE guidance on Herceptin imminent

Preliminary NICE guidance on trastuzumab (Herceptin) will be issued in a matter of weeks, following last week's announcement that the drug has been granted a European licence for early-stage breast cancer.

The European Commission approved use of the drug for early-stage HER2-positive tumours sooner than expected, following positive feedback from the EU's Committee for Human Medicinal Products.

Andrew Dillon, chief executive of NICE, said work on the first draft technology appraisal of the drug would be accelerated.

'We are working hard to ensure our review is completed as soon as possible, and we will update our timelines on the basis of the earlier-than-anticipated granting of the licence as indicated by the manufacturer,' he said.

The licensing move has renewed calls for PCTs to provide trastuzumab to women with early-stage disease.

Pressure to provide the drug has increased since research last year showed that when taken as an adjuvant, trastuzumab halved the risk of post-surgical recurrence in women with early stage breast cancer, compared with standard chemotherapy alone.

Jeremy Hughes, chief executive of Breakthrough Breast Cancer, said the European licence 'should persuade any hesitating doctor or PCT to offer Herceptin to suitable patients'.

NICE has issued preliminary guidance approving the use of aromatase inhibitors in women with early oestrogen-receptor positive breast cancer.

The move could see anastrozole, letrozole and exemestane overtake tamoxifen as standard therapy for this type of breast cancer. Study findings have shown that switching from tamoxifen to anastrozole can reduce the risk of recurrence by 40 per cent.

The final appraisal is expected in November.

rachel.liddle@haynet.com

NICE - Live links at GPonline.com.

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