A drug used to treat advanced breast cancer has been approved for use on the NHS in Scotland.
Pertuzumab, trade name Perjeta, can now be used in the treatment of HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer and in aggressive breast cancers which cannot be surgically removed.
The drug was rejected by the Scottish Medicine Consortium three times on cost grounds.
In December it was given the go-ahead for use in early-stage breast cancer.
Perjeta was accepted following consideration through the SMC’s patient and clinician engagement (Pace) process for medicines used at the end of life and for very rare conditions.
The review acknowledged that this type of breast cancer commonly affects younger women at a stage in their lives where they often have responsibility for young families, have significant work commitments or may be carers for elderly parents.
The decision brings patients in Scotland in line with those in England, Wales and Northern Ireland who already have access to the drug.
SMC chairwoman Dr Alan MacDonald said: “We are pleased to be able to accept pertuzumab for the treatment of HER2 positive metastatic breast cancer or locally recurrent unresectable breast cancer.
“We know from the testimonies given through our Pace process how devastating this condition is for patients and their families, and we hope this decision, which offers the opportunity of extra time when the patient feels well, will be welcomed by them.”
‘I was one of the luckiest ladies in Scotland to get this’
Alison Tait, 49, from Edinburgh, is a single parent living with HER2-positive secondary breast cancer, which is incurable.
She told the BBC: “I was really lucky – probably one of the luckiest ladies in Scotland – that I was able to get a hold of this through private healthcare with my employer.
“I took the drug for about 18 months. During that time it managed my cancer into a place where it was no longer visible through the scans I had.
“This meant I was able to return to work, had a very good social life, got myself back to the gym – keeping fit and well is really important to me – so it enabled me to really focus on that.
“The situation I am in now is that I continue to stay well, there is still no sign of the cancer in my body, so the drug has done exactly what we hoped it would achieve and it has enabled me to live a really good life while I have been on the rest of my treatment.”
Health Secretary Jeane Freeman said: “We welcome the decision by the SMC to approve Perjeta for use in the treatment of HER2-positive metastatic breast cancer. This decision could extend the lives of women with incurable cancer and make a real difference to their families.
“This follows the announcement in December, that it was also approved for women with early-stage breast cancer and means even more women will be able to benefit from this treatment.
“Being diagnosed with cancer is an incredibly difficult time for all those affected, and we are committed to supporting and continually improving patient care.”
Ashleigh Simpson from Breast Cancer Now, which led the Perjeta Now campaign, said: “We are absolutely delighted for patients that the SMC has finally been able to approve Perjeta for routine use on Scotland’s NHS.
“Perjeta is a truly life-changing drug and this decision will have a profound and far-reaching impact for so many Scottish women and their families.
‘Robbed of their future’
Gregor McNie from Cancer Research UK said: “It’s been a long road to get to this point and this decision is truly fantastic news for patients and their loved ones affected.
“For patients in Scotland who have HER2-positive breast cancer that has returned to the breast or spread to other parts of the body, this decision means they now have another treatment option where few options currently exist.
Angela Harris, from Breast Cancer Care Scotland, added: “With a huge sigh of relief, we welcome this fantastic decision. It’s absolutely wonderful that women across the UK diagnosed with incurable, secondary breast cancer can now access this innovative, life-extending treatment.
“Women living with this cruel disease often tell us they feel robbed of their future. For them, nothing is more important than making as many precious memories as possible, and Perjeta can offer about an extra year of invaluable time.”