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Pauline Latham OBE MP presses Health Minister over cancer drug

25th February 2014

In Department of Health questions today, Pauline Latham asked the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health what assessment he had made of the recent decision of the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence not to use the drug Ipilimumab as a first line treatment for late stage melanoma, and whether the Department would supports effort to get the body to reverse this decision.

Ipilimumab is currently prescribed as a second line treatment for late stage melanoma. Dacarbazine, which is prescribed in the first instance, is largely viewed as being ineffectual in preventing the spread of the disease, and as a chemotherapy-type drug, can leave patients feeling weak, unwell and unable to eat.

The charity Melanoma UK, with whom Mrs Latham works closely, have made representations to NICE, arguing that Ipilimumab should be given as a first line treatment, given its proven effectiveness in holding back the progression of the disease.

Mrs Latham continues to support Melanoma UK’s campaign to encourage NICE to licence Ipilimumab for first line treatment, and will be hosting an evidence session for Parliamentary colleagues to discuss this matter in March.

Pauline Latham, MP for Mid Derbyshire commented:

“I have personal experience of having a family member suffer with melanoma and the terrible toll that it takes on patients. I will of course do everything I can to support Melanoma UK in their efforts to get this drug approved for first line treatment.”


Pauline Latham (Mid Derbyshire) (Con): What assessment have the Government made of the decision by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence not to recommend ipilimumab as a first-line treatment for advanced melanoma, except in clinical trials? Will the Minister join me in calling on NICE to reverse this decision and ensure that patients receive earlier access to this treatment to improve their chances of survival?

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Jane Ellison): I know that my hon. Friend is really concerned about this, but NICE is an independent body so it would not be appropriate for me to interfere in an ongoing appraisal. NICE has recommended a number of other treatments for advanced melanoma, and NHS commissioners are required to fund them where clinicians want to use them. I want to give her some encouragement: this spring a trial will begin of an awareness programme on melanoma in the south-west of England, working with Cancer Research UK.

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