2 The technology
2.1 Erlotinib (Tarceva, Roche Products) is an orally active inhibitor of the epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) tyrosine kinase. It has a UK marketing authorisation 'as monotherapy for maintenance treatment in patients with locally advanced or metastatic non-small cell lung cancer with stable disease after four cycles of standard platinum-based first-line chemotherapy'. For further information see the summary of product characteristics.
2.2 Undesirable effects of erlotinib treatment include diarrhoea, rash, anorexia, gastrointestinal bleeding, liver function test abnormalities and keratitis. For full details of side effects and contraindications, see the summary of product characteristics.
2.3 Erlotinib is given orally at a recommended dose of 150 mg/day. The normal acquisition cost of a pack of 30 tablets (150 mg) is £1631.53 (excluding VAT; 'British national formulary' [BNF] edition 60). The manufacturer of erlotinib has agreed a patient access scheme with the Department of Health in which the acquisition cost of erlotinib is reduced by 14.5% and deducted at the time of supply to the NHS (that is, £1394.96 for a pack of 30 tablets [150 mg]). The Department of Health considered that this patient access scheme does not constitute an excessive administrative burden on the NHS. Costs may vary in different settings because of negotiated procurement discounts.