Draft NICE guidance does not recommend the routine use of AstraZeneca’s anti-oestrogen drug Faslodex (fulvestrant) in the NHS to treat certain types of breast cancer.
Faslodex was authorised in 2010 for marketing as an alternative to aromatase inhibitors to delay the growth of oestrogen-receptor-positive, locally advanced or metastatic breast cancer in postmenopausal women who have already received anti-oestrogen therapy (such as tamoxifen).
NICE’s Independent Advisory Committee has concluded that the drug is not significantly more effective than existing treatments, and so its routine use would not be a good use of resources.
The Committee judged AstraZeneca’s claim that Faslodex could extend life relative to the aromatase inhibitors anastrozole and letrozole to be uncertain as network meta-analyses showed no statistically significant differences.
In addition, they found that Faslodex delayed cancer growth more effectively than anastrozole but not more so than letrozole. An incremental cost effectiveness ratio of £35,000 per QALY gained for Faslodex 500mg compared with anastrozole was estimated, but with “considerable uncertainty”.
The draft guidance thus recommends that NHS doctors should not prescribe Faslodex as an alternative to aromatase inhibitors in relevant cases – but that women who are currently receiving Faslodex should be able to continue to do so until they and their doctors decide to stop.
Sir Andrew Dillon, Chief Executive of NICE, commented: “While there is evidence that fulvestrant can delay the growth of breast cancer, our independent committee found that when used according to its marketing authorisation, its effectiveness is uncertain compared to aromatase inhibitors, which are currently the preferred treatment options on the NHS.
“As fulvestrant has not been proven to be cost-effective, we cannot justify diverting NHS funds from other areas of healthcare in order to fund its use.”
The draft guidance is open to appeal until 24 November. NICE hopes to publish final guidance in January 2012.