Patients in England who have prostate cancer will now be given early access to a drug that can delay the need for chemotherapy.
Abiraterone has now been deemed affordable by the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE). Previously, they had said the treatment wasn’t cost effective for the NHS until prostate cancer reaches an advanced stage.
Also known as Zytiga, abiraterone is a hormone therapy. Where chemotherapy kills cancerous cells, this therapy prevents more testosterone from reaching the prostate gland, therefore stifling the tumour.
The drug is already used after chemotherapy as an end-of-life treatment because it allows patients to have a few additional months.
Although patients in Scotland had access to the abiraterone during earlier stages of prostate cancer, NICE previously said they couldn’t justify giving it to patients who didn’t have more advanced stages of the disease.
Now, NICE have said that new evidence from the drug’s manufacturer means it can be made available to patients with spreading prostate cancer who have mild symptoms and have not experienced a response to androgen deprivation therapy, but have yet to be offered chemotherapy.
At present, the drug costs £3,000 a month, but manufacturer Janssen has agreed to a lower price. NHS Englland will now pay £2,300 for a month’s supply of tablets. The NHS will pay for the first 10 months under the agreed discount and for those who remain on the treatment for longer than this time period, Janssen will rebate the cost of abiraterone from the 11th month until the treatment ends.
NICE’s Professor Carole Longson said this is good news as treatments available for patients at this stage of prostate cancer are limited.
Heather Blake from Prostate Cancer UK said the decision has been long-awaited and puts an end to years of uncertainty for patients and their families.
The NHS in Wales is expected to provide resources and funding for abiraterone within three months of the English guidance being published.