Closed petition Fund the drug bevacizumab (Avastin) on the NHS to treat colorectal cancer

NICE has previously reviewed Avastin (bevacizumab) as a treatment for colorectal cancer and recommended it should not be offered on the NHS. The drug’s patent has since ended, which has reduced the cost. We request that this drug now be made available on the NHS for all colorectal cancer patients.

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Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a drug that acts on cancer cells; it is used as a first line treatment of colorectal (bowel) and other cancers in some parts of Europe & the USA. However, the UK postcode lottery means patients have to self-fund this treatment, which can cost between £200-£2000 per round of treatment, with some patients needing multiple rounds alongside chemotherapy – a terrifying choice for those already on reduced incomes.

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Government responded

This response was given on 21 July 2022

Although NICE has not recommended bevacizumab for colorectal cancer, it has recommended a number of other medicines to treat colorectal cancer that are routinely available to NHS patients.

Read the response in full

We are very sorry to learn about anyone who has been diagnosed with colorectal cancer. We know that a diagnosis can be devastating news to individuals and we recognise the immense challenges faced by them, their loved ones and friends following diagnosis.

The Government understands how important it is for NHS patients to have access to the most effective and innovative cancer treatments. It is also important that we have a system in place for making evidence-based decisions on which medicines should be routinely funded by the NHS to ensure the most efficient use of NHS resources, and that every pound spent on healthcare goes towards paying for medicines hospitals, doctors and nurses.

In England, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) makes evidence-based recommendations for the NHS on whether new licensed medicines represent a clinical and cost-effective use of resources. NICE is a world-leader in the development of evidence-based guidance, and plays a crucial role in securing rapid access to the most clinically and cost-effective treatments for NHS patients.
Where NICE recommends a medicine, NHS commissioners are legally required to make funding routinely available so that clinicians can offer it to their patients. Many thousands of patients have benefitted from access to new medicines as a result of NICE’s important work.

In 2012, NICE appraised bevacizumab (Avastin) for use in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. After assessing the available evidence, it was unable to recommend bevacizumab as a clinically and cost-effective use of NHS resources. It is therefore not routinely funded on the NHS in England. However, NICE maintains surveillance of new evidence that may affect its published guidance, including cost considerations, and will consult on proposed changes with a wide range of stakeholders if any significant new evidence were to emerge. If patients or clinicians believe there is significant new evidence, they should contact NICE.

NICE has been able to recommend a number of medicines for the treatment of colorectal cancer that are now routinely available to NHS patients, including through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF). Some of these medicines include nivolumab in combination with ipilimumab, encorafenib, cetuximab and panitumumab. The CDF provides access to NHS patients to the most promising new cancer drugs where there is uncertainty about their effectiveness. Where NICE recommends a cancer drug for use in the CDF it is available to NHS patients through the CDF for a defined period of time, normally 2 years, while further evidence is collected on its use that will inform a later NICE appraisal.

Since October 2016, the CDF has benefited over 80,000 patients in England, providing them with life-extending cancer drugs that would not otherwise have been available to them. This year £340 million has been invested in the Fund, helping to provide faster access to the most promising new cancer drugs and ensure better value for taxpayers and the NHS.

Where a treatment is not routinely funded by the NHS in England, a clinician can, on behalf of their patient, make an application for extended funding of that treatment to the relevant commissioner. This is known as an Individual Funding Request (IFR). In making an application for an IFR, the clinician must demonstrate the exceptional circumstances of the patient that justifies the request for an IFR. For example, an IFR may be justified if the patient better responds to the requested treatment compared to other treatments, or if the patient responds better than would be expected to the requested treatment, and is therefore likely to derive greater benefit from the requested treatment.

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MPs investigate innovations in cancer care

A group of MPs called the Health and Social Care Committee are looking into innovations that can transform cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Read the Committee's press notice announcing this work.

The Committee is considering points including:

  • What innovations have the greatest potential to transform cancer diagnosis and treatment

  • How innovations in diagnosing and treating cancer can be deployed into frontline clinical settings

  • What can be learnt about innovative cancer diagnosis and treatment from international examples of best practice

  • How workforce planning is keeping up with innovations in the diagnosis and treatment of cancer

  • How the impact of innovations in cancer diagnosis and treatment on health inequalities is taken into account

What happens next?

The Committee is going to conduct oral evidence sessions where it will hear from experts in the sector as well as Government and NHS officials.

An evidence session is a hearing where MPs ask key experts, such as Ministers, academics and/or campaigners, questions on a particular topic. These experts are called "witnesses" and they help MPs to gain a deeper understanding of the topic.

The Committee will then consider all the evidence it has taken and publish a report of its findings with recommendations to the Government on any changes that might be needed.

For more information about the inquiry, visit the Committee's inquiry page.

What is the Health and Social Care Committee?

The Health and Social Care Committee is a cross-party group of MPs that conduct inquiries into issues in Health and Social Care in the UK.

The Health and Social Care Committee is a select committee.

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