UK health body rejects Herceptin for stomach cancer

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LONDON (Reuters) - Britain's health cost watchdog has rejected Roche's cancer drug Herceptin for patients with stomach cancer, which means they will not get the drug paid for by the country's taxpayer-funded National Health Service (NHS).The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) said on Tuesday it was rejecting the drug, whose generic name is trastuzumab, for gastric cancer "due to the uncertainty surrounding the extent to which it can extend life".Herceptin only works in cancer patients whose tumours have high levels of a protein called human epidermal growth factor receptor 2, or HER2, and is not suitable for others.It was approved for NHS funding for the early treatment of women with HER2-positive breast cancer in June 2006 after a long battle by cancer campaigners for NICE to recommend it."Although clinical trials suggest that trastuzumab can extend life for patients with HER2-positive metastatic gastric cancer, there is considerable uncertainty about the data on how long this extension would be," NICE Chief Executive Andrew Dillon said in a statement.He said the drug's manufacturer, Roche, and other parties would now have an opportunity to resolve this uncertainty by providing more information to NICE's appraisal committee.According to NICE, gastric cancer affects around 8,200 people in the United Kingdom every year, around 500 of whom would be eligible for treatment with Herceptin.The drug, which is given by injection, works by attaching itself to the HER2 protein to stop the cancer cells from growing.A 150-mg vial of Herceptin costs around 407.40 pounds ($630), and according to NICE, the total cost of Herceptin per patient is around 10,185 pounds ($15,750). ($1=.6465 Pound)

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