A Ringwood-based charity has attacked the decision not to allow NHS patients a last hope drug for treating liver cancer.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) found that sorafenib, sold under the trade name of Nexavar, was effective in prolonging life, but was too expensive.

The drug is the only one licensed for treating primary liver cancer when surgery and other therapies have failed or are unsuitable.

Alison Rogers, chief executive of the British Liver Trust, a national charity based in Ringwood, said: “The decision to reject a treatment for advanced liver cancer is a huge blow for patients.

“This is a treatment to extend life for people where all other options have run out. It is particularly hard for people with liver cancer given that treatments for many other advanced cancers have been given the green light by NICE.”

NICE uses quality adjusted life years (QALYs) to assess the value for money of treatments. Generally, the limit is £30,000 per QALY, but following a number of high profile cases, it can now be raised for terminally ill patients.

Sorafenib was found to have a cost per QALY of £51,000 – just £1,000 above what Alison Rogers believes to be the new unpublished threshold for end of life treatment.

“This treatment is just on the wrong side of the bar. To be told extension of life is not an acceptable use of NHS resources, however rationally based the rationing system is, will cause unbearable pain and distress to patients and their families,” she said.

Liver cancer has poor survival rates, with many patients lasting as little as eight months from diagnosis.