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Watchdog approves skin cancer drugs
Patients with an advanced form of skin cancer have been given new hope after the health watchdog recommended that two life-extending treatments should be available on the NHS.
In final draft guidance, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) said that drugs ipilimumab and vemurafenib should be used for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma - the most dangerous type of skin cancer.
The prognosis for advanced melanoma is very poor, and those who are diagnosed often have just months to live.
But under new proposals, patients in England and Wales will be able to access the life-extending treatments.
"Advanced melanoma can significantly affect patients' quality of life and without effective new therapies, the prognosis for advanced disease is very poor," said Professor Carole Longson, director at the Health Technology Evaluation Centre at Nice.
"For many years the treatments available for this condition have been very limited and in some cases restricted to palliative care. However, there are now a number of new treatments being developed and vemurafenib and ipilimumab are the first two that Nice has been asked to review. These new draft recommendations represent really good news for skin cancer patients.
"Vemurafenib and ipilimumab are breakthrough treatments that can potentially significantly affect prognosis for these patients and we are very pleased that the manufacturers have worked with us so that we are now able to recommend both ipilimumab and vemurafenib."
In initial guidance, Nice did not recommend the use of the treatments. But the watchdog has since received data about the cost effectiveness of the drugs and in its final draft guidance it has recommended the treatments on the basis that the manufacturers provide them with a discount.
Vemurafenib, which is also known as zelboraf and is manufactured by Roche, has been recommended for the treatment of metastatic melanoma.
Ipilimumab, made by Bristol-Myers Squibb, is recommended for the treatment of advanced malignant melanoma in people who have received prior chemotherapy.