- Monday, 14 May 2012
NICE is set to reverse a proposed ban on a drug that will give months of extra life to men with advanced prostate cancer.
Abiraterone, costing £3,000 per month of treatment, was deemed too expensive by the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence. But it is now set to be the first specific treatment for prostate cancer approved for use on the NHS for more than a decade.
The U-turn comes following a campaign by the Prostate Cancer Charity, the Daily Mail, and a rare intervention by the Department of Health.
Abiraterone is one of two new drugs proved to prolong survival when other treatments have failed. The other, cabazitaxel, was banned for NHS use last week.
In trials, men who took abiraterone and a steroid lived for nearly 15 months, while those given steroids and a 'dummy' pill lived for just 11 months on average. But some patients live far longer than expected when taking the medication - including some who have survived on the drug for almost five years with advanced disease.
The pill, which is taken four times each day, also eases pain for sufferers and improves their quality of life. It could benefit around 3,300 British men with advanced prostate cancer that has become resistant to standard hormone treatments every year.
A plan to ban it was devised by NICE despite protests that it had not been correctly assessed. The Prostate Cancer Charity led a vocal campaign against the decision, which Department of Health officials asked NICE to "carefully" reconsider. NICE is now expected to announce that it will approve the drug using end-of-life criteria this week.
Owen Sharp of the Prostate Cancer Charity said its campaign had been supported by patients and MPs appalled at the prospect of a drug available in other EU countries being banned here.
He said: "It was the wrong decision.
"This breakthrough drug will make a real difference to men with prostate cancer at the end of life who have no alternative - this is the only hope they have.
"It gives them significant extra months of life. It also gives a huge reduction in pain. Disagreement over cost was not a reason to deny it to patients."
Professor Jonathan Waxman, a prostate cancer specialist at Imperial College London, added: "The ban should be reversed because it would limit what we as clinicians can do for our patients and their families."
NICE’s decision will affect patients in England and Wales. The drug is banned for use on the NHS in Scotland, but the decision will be reviewed.
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