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Bevacizumab for treating metastatic colorectal cancer: benefits for some patients; high cost for the NHS

NICE has published final draft guidance as part of its appraisal of bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with chemotherapy (oxaliplatin and either 5-fluorouracil or capecitabine) for treating metastatic colorectal cancer. The recommendations do not support the use of bevacizumab for this indication, on the basis of the current offer from the manufacturer, Roche Pharmaceuticals.

Draft guidance is now with consultees, who have the opportunity to appeal against the proposed guidance.

In response to the latest draft guidance NICE Chief Executive, Sir Andrew Dillon, said: "Bevacizumab (Avastin) is a very expensive drug and so patients and NHS should expect substantial benefits from using it. The evidence we have suggests that patients receiving bevacizumab and chemotherapy for this indication may survive on average for six weeks longer than patients receiving chemotherapy and placebo. This means half of those patients who receive any benefit, will receive less than six extra weeks of life.

"We have held two consultations on our initial draft decision on bevacizumab for metastatic colorectal cancer, inviting the manufacturer and other stakeholders to submit further information in support of bevacizumab for this indication. Unfortunately, no new information or opinion submitted during either consultation has provided evidence to enable the committee to recommend the drug; therefore they have not been able to change the original recommendation.

"NICE has recommended expensive drug treatments before, but the independent Committee that makes the final decision needs to be certain that the benefits offered justify the cost the NHS is being asked to pay."

The manufacturer estimates that approximately 6,500 people per year might be eligible for the drug and, with the proposed patient access scheme, Roche is currently asking the NHS to pay around £20,800 per patient. If all these eligible patients received bevacizumab, the total cost to the NHS could potentially be as much as £135 million per year.

In the original proposed patient access scheme, bevacizumab would be supplied at a fixed cost of approximately £20,800 per patient for one year and would be free after 12 months of cumulative treatment. The cost of oxaliplatin would also be reimbursed. The new scheme included all these elements plus an additional upfront payment to the NHS for each person starting first-line treatment with bevacizumab.

Both the independent Appraisal Committee and the Department of Health felt the patient access scheme proposed by the manufacturer was complex and the administrative costs were underestimated in the manufacturer's calculations.

Sir Andrew continued: "The very complex patient access scheme proposed by the manufacturer did not reduce the cost effectiveness estimates by anywhere near as much as the manufacturer suggests. Using the price that the NHS actually pays for oxaliplatin, the cost per QALY would actually be around £70,000 and not £25 - £30,000 as suggested by Roche."

"We have recommended several treatments for various stages of colorectal cancer, including cetuximab for the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. We are disappointed not to be able to add to this range of treatment options,but we have to be confident that the benefits justify the considerable cost of this drug, and the evidence for bevacizumab is just not as clear as it is for other treatments."

Until NICE issues final guidance, NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments. People who are currently receiving bevacizumab should have the option to continue therapy until they and their clinicians consider it appropriate to stop.

Ends

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Notes to Editors

About the guidance

1. Information on the NICE appraisal of bevacizumab in combination with oxaliplatin and either 5-fluorouracil or capecitabine for the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer and the consultation documents are available at http://guidance.nice.org.uk/TA/Wave19/52.

2. Metastatic colorectal cancer is when the primary cancer has spread from the colon or rectum to other parts of the body, such as the liver. It can be a devastating disease for both the patient and their family.

3. NICE are aware that there are additional studies focusing on bevacizumab in conjunction with another drug, however, these comparisons are not relevant to this appraisal. NICE have been asked by the Department of Health to appraise the use of bevacizumab (Avastin) in combination with chemotherapy (oxaliplatin and either 5-fluorouracil or capecitabine) for treating metastatic colorectal cancer.

4. NICE has previously recommended Irinotecan, oxaliplatin, capecitabine, tegafur with uracil and cetuximab for the treatment of various stages of colorectal cancer.

5. Although the Committee recognised that bevacizumab may give patients an average of around six weeks of extra life compared with placebo, there were simply too many uncertainties in the economic analysis to be able to recommend the drug for use in the NHS. The Committee also felt that the PAS was complex and the administration costs had been underestimated in the manufacturer's ICER calculations.

About NICE

6. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) is the independent organisation responsible for providing national guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention and treatment of ill health.

7. NICE produces guidance in three areas of health:

  • public health - guidance on the promotion of good health and the prevention of ill health for those working in the NHS, local authorities and the wider public and voluntary sector
  • health technologies - guidance on the use of new and existing medicines, treatments and procedures within the NHS
  • clinical practice - guidance on the appropriate treatment and care of people with specific diseases and conditions within the NHS.

This page was last updated: 12 November 2010

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Copyright 2014 National Institute for Health and Care Excellence. All rights reserved.