A drug which means incurable breast cancer patients can live a normal life will now be used across the NHS in England.

Perjeta has been approved by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) for routine use after five years of assessment.

Previously, it had only been available through the Cancer Drugs Fund since 2013, meaning many sufferers were not even given the option.

Used in combination with trastuzumab and a chemotherapy drug called docetaxel, Perjeta – or Pertuzumab – can give men and women with secondary breast cancer a relatively normal life.

Last year Scotland refused to make Perjeta available on the NHS as it could not justify the “cost in relation to its health benefits”, the Scottish Medicines Consortium decided.

Sarah Hepworth, 42, of Oxford, was diagnosed with primary and secondary breast cancer, which spread to her bones, in 2015 aged 39.

She was put on Perjeta in December 2015 thanks to the Cancer Drugs Fund, but was always concerned if she had to come off it due to illness she would not be allowed it again.

Sarah Hepworth lives a relatively normal life thanks to Perjeta. Pic: Sarah Hepworth
Image:
Sarah Hepworth lives a relatively normal life thanks to Perjeta. Pic: Sarah Hepworth

She told Sky News: “I’m so happy Perjeta is now available on the NHS, the worry of being taken off it has vanished and now thousands of others with secondary breast cancer can use it.

“I was initially on chemotherapy which was horrific, I had terrible side effects and I wasn’t living, just surviving.

“When I was put on Perjeta, with two other drugs, it gave me a new lease of life and I really don’t have the side effects.

“I now live a normal life, a new normal where I live by my last scan, but normal nonetheless.

“I can work, I’m back at my previous job as a solutions manager for Royal Mail, and people on the street wouldn’t even know I have cancer.

“It’s so important when you have cancer, and you’re brain is still fine, to feel like you can contribute to society.

“Yes, I have to go to the hospital every three weeks and be hooked up to an IV drip so I can take the drugs, but otherwise my life is normal.

“I describe the drugs as like the game Whac-a-Mole, they whack the cancer cells down when they try to emerge.

“It’s my armoury against the cancer cells.”

Mrs Hepworth is part of a group of breast cancer sufferers organised through the charity, Breast Cancer Care.

“A few of the other women I know from the group are on Perjeta and they have had the same experience, so I’m so pleased more women can now have access to it,” she added.

“These drugs make a huge difference to us.”

Samia al Qadhi, chief executive of Breast Cancer Care, said: “This is a watershed moment. After over five years of unbearable uncertainty, access to a pioneering combination of treatments for people living with incurable secondary breast cancer has finally been guaranteed on the NHS.

“This innovative treatment offers women and men with incurable breast cancer the precious chance of around an extra year to live their lives with loved ones and be there for the moments that matter.

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“So it is frustrating that women in Scotland are now at an unfair disadvantage since the drug was rejected seven months ago.

“Anxious waits for vital drugs, like Perjeta, must be consigned to history. And it is also crucial the fundamentals of cancer treatment do not suffer in a struggling NHS. Delivering the best care possible for people living with incurable breast cancer cannot be neglected.”