England and Wales benefit from NHS postcode lottery as prostate cancer wonder drug set for approval south of border but turned down by Scotland
Final approval of abiraterone for England and Wales expected in JuneProstate cancer charity calls on Scotland to approve drug



09:02 GMT, 16 May 2012

Abiraterone is marketed as Zytiga

Abiraterone is marketed as Zytiga

A drug to treat advanced prostate cancer should be given to patients in England and Wales, according to the NHS rationing body.

Abiraterone, marketed as Zytiga, can extend the lives of late-stage cancer sufferers by more than three months.

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (Nice) had originally rejected the drug, which costs around 3,000 a month, for not being cost effective.

It provoked an angry response from both patients and cancer charities.

However, today it revised its recommendations after the manufacturer Janssen offered the tablet at a lower undisclosed price.

If Nice gives final approval to the drug it will have to be offered by the NHS in England and Wales from June.

However, in a reverse of the usual trend the drug won't be available in Scotland. In March the Scottish Medicines Consortium turned the drug down saying the cost of abiraterone did not justify the health benefits. This decision could change as it is still in talks with Janssen.

The new draft guidance has been welcomed by experts.

Owen Sharp, Chief Executive of The Prostate Cancer Charity, said: 'This announcement represents a resounding triumph for each of the thousands of men with advanced prostate cancer in England and Wales who know just how much the prospect of precious extra time with their loved ones really means.

'Although today marks a very welcome advancement, it has to be remembered that abiraterone remains out of reach to men in Scotland on the NHS. We need to see every man who needs this drug receive it on the NHS, regardless of where they live in the UK.'

Each year around 37,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer and 10,000 die from the disease. It is the second most common cause of cancer death in men, accounting for 13 per cent.

Human prostate cancer cells: Each year around 37,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer

Human prostate cancer cells: Each year around 37,000 men in the UK are diagnosed with prostate cancer

Sir Andrew Dillon, chief executive of Nice, said: 'During the consultation on the draft guidance Janssen, the manufacturer of the drug, submitted further information for the committee to consider.

'This included a revised patient access scheme which involves providing the drug to the NHS at a discounted price, further information on which patients would benefit most and clarification on how many patients could receive the drug.

'These factors enabled the committee to revise its preliminary recommendation and now recommend the drug for use on the NHS.

'We are very pleased that Janssen's submission to our consultation means that we are able to produce draft guidance recommending abiraterone – it is an effective treatment, potentially extending life by more than three months, and it also allows patients to be treated at home as it can be taken orally.'

Professor Alan Ashworth, chief executive of the Institute of Cancer Research, said: 'We are delighted by today's decision to allow patients with advanced prostate cancer to receive abiraterone on the NHS.

'This drug was discovered at the Institute of Cancer Research and is the result of more than two decades of dedicated work by our scientists and collaborators.

'In clinical trials of men with advanced prostate cancer who have already tried chemotherapy, it has been shown to extend life by an average of four months and improve quality of life.'

As Nice has not issued final guidance there is a chance the decision could be appealed against, and NHS bodies should make decisions locally on the funding of specific treatments.

Nice recommended the use of abiraterone in combination with prednisone or prednisolone for the treatment of castration-resistant metastatic prostate cancer that has progressed after one docetaxel-containing therapy.