3 January 2017

NICE Says Liver Cancer Treatment to Stay Within the Cancer Drugs Fund, but not Recommended for Routine NHS Use

The drug, sorafenib (also known as Nexavar), which is used for treating advanced hepatocellular carcinoma, is not value for money, NICE has said in new draft guidance.

The committee found that sorafenib does not provide enough benefit to patients to justify its high cost, even when special considerations were applied.

However, having concluded that it could not be recommended for routine use, but recognising the unmet need for patients with this condition, the committee agreed that sorafenib should continue to be recommended for use within the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF).

Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of primary cancer that starts in the liver, rather than spreading from another site.

In advanced disease, the cancer has grown inside the liver (a tumour) but might not have spread to nearby lymph glands.

Sorafenib is a drug that slows the growth of tumours. It works by inhibiting tumour blood vessel development and the spread of tumour cells.

NICE originally published guidance in 2010 which said that sorafenib was not cost effective. It was then made available through the CDF. This reconsideration is part of its programme to appraise drugs that are currently available on the CDF.

The document is not NICE's final guidance on this technology. The recommendations may change after consultation, when the appraisal committee will meet again to consider any new information or evidence.

Consultees, including the company who manufacture the drug, healthcare professionals and members of the public are now able to comment on the preliminary recommendation which is out for public consultation until 23 January 2017.

Until final guidance is issued to the NHS, sorafenib will still be available to patients from the Cancer Drugs Fund. Patients who already receive this drug will be able to continue their treatment.