Two new “breakthrough” breast cancer drugs to be available through the NHS

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Susan Devaney

Thousands of women with previously untreatable breast cancer will now have access to two new breast cancer drugs.

Two new “breakthrough” drugs for treating breast cancer have been approved by the NHS and will be available to women across England.

Both drugs, palbociclib and ribociclib, have been shown to slow the progression of advanced cancer by at least 10 months, potentially giving women the chance to live longer.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) approved palbociclib and ribociclib after negotiating prices for the treatments – as it was previously rejected by NICE for being too expensive.

It is estimated that the drugs could treat around 8,000 women each year.

“The committee heard that by postponing disease progression, palbociclib and ribociclib may reduce the number of people who are exposed to the often unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy, and delay the need for its use in others,” said Professor Carole Longson director of the centre for health technology evaluation at NICE

“We are pleased therefore that the companies have been able to agree reductions to the price of palbociclib and ribociclib to allow them to be made routinely available to people with this type of breast cancer.”

The list price of one cycle of both palbociclib and ribociclib is £2,950.

It is estimated that the drugs could treat around 8,000 women each year.

Women who meet the criteria have undergone the menopause. Both drugs are given as a tablet once-daily alongside an aromatase inhibitor, a type of anti-cancer drug that works by blocking the production of oestrogen.

There are around 45,000 new diagnoses of breast cancer each year in England.

The ICR, along with the Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust, led the major clinical trial into palbociclib.

Trial lead Nicholas Turner, professor of molecular oncology at the ICR and consultant medical oncologist at the Royal Marsden, said:

“The development of this brand new class of cancer drug is one of the most important breakthroughs for women with advanced breast cancer in the last two decades.

“In clinical trials, palbociclib and ribociclib have made a huge difference to women’s lives – slowing down tumour growth for nearly a year, and delaying the need for chemotherapy with all its potentially debilitating side-effects. These drugs have allowed women to live a normal life for longer.

“I’m delighted that NICE and the manufacturers have managed to come to an agreement over the price and economic modelling of palbociclib and ribociclib, so that many more women can access this much-needed new type of treatment on the NHS.”

Images: Drew Hays / iStock


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Susan Devaney

Susan Devaney is a digital journalist for, writing about fashion, feminism, and everything else in-between.

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