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Posted by Target Ovarian Cancer on Thursday 10 December 2015

The National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) have today announced they have approved olaparib (Lynparza) as a maintenance treatment of relapsed platinum-sensitive ovarian cancer, for women with a BRCA1 or 2 mutation, who have received three or more rounds of platinum based (carboplatin/cisplatin) chemotherapy. Olaparib is the first targeted therapy for BRCA-mutated ovarian cancer and the first NICE approved medicine for ovarian cancer since 2003.

Until today, women in the UK have only been able to access olaparib through clinical trials. This decision will mean that up to 400 women a year could benefit from a new treatment, which showed in clinical trials an increase in progression-free survival (time before the disease returns) of up to seven months for women with a BRCA1 or 2 mutation. Earlier this year, both NICE and the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF) rejected olaparib for use after two rounds of chemotherapy.

Annwen Jones, Chief Executive of Target Ovarian Cancer, said: “That olaparib is now available for women with BRCA-related ovarian cancer is a big step forward, as this wasn’t previously the case. With very, very few treatment options for women with ovarian cancer, any new drug that helps women is to be welcomed. However, limiting the availability to late stage treatment is extremely disappointing for all those women who might have benefitted from it being available earlier on in treatment. We hope, and will continue to campaign, to make sure this is the first step on a road to wider availability.”

Belinda Craig, 48 from Chislehurst, said: “I am just starting my fifth round of treatment for ovarian cancer since I was diagnosed in 2010. Whilst I understand the importance of balancing cost and effectiveness, I am now also fully aware that it is essential that pharmaceutical companies and bodies like NICE are able to appreciate the urgent need for new treatment, as the alternatives currently on offer and their outcomes are truly bleak." 

Target Ovarian Cancer has been at the heart of the NICE approval process from the original scoping meeting 18 months ago, ensuring the patient voice was heard at the three subsequent appraisal meetings. Whilst disappointed by the limited approval, Target Ovarian Cancer is proud of the part we played in getting this British discovery into the clinic.

Please note that it can take up to 90 days from NICE approval to the drug being routinely commissioned.