Scottish government: act now to bring down the price of breast cancer drugs

Today patients from Just Treatment, including Dunise from Inverness, launched a campaign to demand the Scottish government act to secure access to the breast cancer drug pertuzumab (brand name Perjeta) which was deemed too expensive for the Scottish NHS. They are calling on Nicola Sturgeon to use a legal mechanism known as a Crown use licence to bring down the price of the drug. Click here to add your voice to the call!

Pertuzumab is currently available on the NHS in England but not in Scotland. It was rejected in summer 2017 by the Scottish Medicines Consortium (SMC). The SMC concluded that the price demanded by the manufacturer, Roche, was too high to make the drug cost-effective. Roche charge around £43,908 per patient for a year’s treatment.

The lack of availability of the drug in Scotland causes extreme stress for patients at a time when they are having to come to terms with their diagnosis.

Originally from Inverness, 35 year old Dunise MacIver was working in London when she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer in 2017 and her doctor recommended a combination of treatments including pertuzumab. Dunise wanted to return home to get her medical care close to her network of family and friends but was told that she would not be able to access pertuzumab if she moved back to Inverness. She chose to stay in London.

Dunise said: “The fact I had to make this kind of choice really upset me and made me think of how things could have been different if I hadn’t moved to England [...] No one should have a price tag on their life.”

Thirty-four year old Kirsty Howard from Edinburgh was forced to ask family to help contribute towards a £10,500 bill to pay for pertuzumab prior to surgery when she was diagnosed with breast cancer in October 2017.

Kirsty said: “It makes me so angry that for all the money that goes into research for new life saving drugs, the drug companies then completely over-price the drugs making them unaffordable to the NHS”.

Just Treatment want the Scottish government to introduce a Crown use licence for pertuzumab, which would overturn Roche’s patent and end the company’s 20 year monopoly. This would allow other manufacturers to make and sell the drug at a much lower price. Crown use licences are part of an internationally agreed set of safeguards designed to prevent companies exploiting patent monopolies at the expense of patients. You can follow this link to read our detailed technical submission to the government.

Diarmaid McDonald