Group calls for UK to grant compulsory licence for Roche's breast cancer drug Kadcyla

A group in the UK on Thursday called for Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt to grant a compulsory licence for patents covering Roche's Kadcyla (trastuzumab emtansine) allowing other companies to supply biosimilar versions of the breast cancer therapy. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence has determined that the cost of the product, which stands at 90 000 pounds ($136,000) per patient, is excessive, while the NHS recently said that it would be one of a number of medicines no longer covered by the Cancer Drugs Fund starting in November.

The Coalition for Affordable T-DM1 noted that UK and European law contained provisions for granting a compulsory licence, with one company already indicating a willingness to make a version of the drug if such a licence was issued. Specifically, the group noted that the UK government can invoke a provision in the Patents Act 1977 allowing patents to be disregarded as a matter of national interest.

Also on Thursday, breast cancer charity Breast Cancer Now called on Roche to reduce the price of Kadcyla before it is removed from the Cancer Drugs Fund next month. The charity argued that the Swiss drugmaker has a responsibility to lower the price of the therapy to a level the NHS can afford.

Breast Cancer Now chief executive Delyth Morgan stated "time is running out for patients living with incurable secondary breast cancer for whom Kadcyla would be their next treatment option." Morgan continued "we need a completely overhauled system of pricing and access, but until this is finally in place, Roche must do the right thing and take steps to keep this amazing drug available through the Cancer Drugs Fund."

In response, Roche said it was still negotiating with NHS England and remarked there needed to be a "pragmatic, flexible and sustainable" way of assessing cancer drugs in the UK. Deborah Lancaster, director of Roche Products, indicated that Roche had offered NHS England savings of 15 million pounds ($22.8 million) on four drugs including Kadcyla that the Cancer Drugs Fund currently covers. Meanwhile, Roche CEO Severin Schwan previously criticised the decision by the NHS to terminate coverage of treatments including Kadcyla by the Cancer Drugs Fund as "completely arbitrary."

To read more Top Story articles, click here.