LONDON - An independent British medical watchdog says the first treatment proven to help people with the deadliest form of skin cancer is too expensive to be used by the UK’s health care system, a recommendation critics called a potential death sentence.
The drug, Bristol-Meyers Squibb’s Yervoy, has offered some hope to people with advanced skin cancers, though a recent study showed it only worked in a small segment of patients studied, and they lived just four months longer than patients given older medications.
The National Institute for Clinical Excellence advised yesterday that at a cost of $126,600, Yervoy “could not be considered a cost-effective use’’ of health funds. A final decision is expected next month after a public consultation.
In the United Kingdom, most medicines are paid for by the government as long as they are recommended by the cost-efficiency watchdog. The agency commonly rejects expensive drugs, including recently advising against new treatments for prostate cancer, breast cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
The government usually adopts the institute’s recommendations, meaning doctors in the government-funded health service cannot prescribe Yervoy without its approval.