Five-year course of tamoxifen or raloxifene recommended for high risk women

New guidelines for the UK National Health Service (NHS) suggest that women at high risk of breast cancer should be offered a five-year course of tamoxifen or raloxifene to prevent the disease developing.

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence says taking either drug on a daily basis for five years can reduce breast cancer risks by 40% for up to 10 years. It recommends the drugs are offered to healthy women aged over 35 who have a family history of breast cancer or carry a high risk gene such as BRCA1 or BRCA2. Around half a million women across England and Wales may be eligible for the treatment.

Cancer charities have welcomed the recommendations, saying the drugs could spare at-risk women the trauma of breast removal surgery, as well as saving the NHS money. The cost of a year’s course of raloxifene, manufactured by Eli Lily, is in the region of a few hundred pounds - much cheaper than chemotherapy, which can run into tens of thousands of pounds. Tamoxifen is cheaper still, having been out of patent for several years, and the whole five-year course would cost around £250 per person.