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Row over new extra time drug ban

Thursday February 2nd, 2012

A row broke out today over proposals to restrict a drug for male cancer that was discovered in the UK.

Abiraterone has been found to extend the lives of patients with incurable prostate cancer and can be taken as pills at home.

But the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence says it is too expensive - and is proposing to advise the NHS against using it.

The drug was discovered by Cancer Research UK scientists and the organisation hit out angrily yesterday.

Chief clinician Professor Peter Johnson said the proposal made "no sense".

He said: "Since it became available in the UK, abiraterone has been one of the most requested treatments from the Cancer Drugs Fund.

"This is because patients and doctors value the extra months of life it can give if prostate cancer has come back after chemotherapy.

“We need to find a way for it to be routinely available through the NHS. At the moment it is too expensive and NICE must find a better way to ensure drugs that are already working for patients get approved."

About 3,300 men a year could be prescribed the drug - although NICE says this could increase to more than 5,000. NICE says using the drug would cost more than £63,000 for every good quality year of life (QALY) it saved.

The drug normally costs £3,000 a month.

Cancer Research UK chief executive Dr Harpal Kumar said: “We’re hugely frustrated that NICE felt the drug wasn’t good value for money.

"Generous public donations to Cancer Research UK and other organisations paid for the initial development of the drug and we feel extremely let down that the drug’s manufacturer couldn’t offer NICE a price they could agree on."

And Owen Sharp, chief executive of the Prostate Cancer Charity, said: "Sadly, this draft decision sends yet another clear message to men that investing in treatments for prostate cancer is simply not a priority for the NHS.

"Men, running out of time and often desperately trying to access this drug, are currently being forced into a postcode lottery, where decisions on whether they are given a further chance at life are made based on where they live in the UK."

But NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said he was "disappointed" it could not back the drug.

He said: "It is an expensive drug and the independent advisory committee that made this decision did not feel the drug provided enough benefit to patients to justify the price the NHS is being asked to pay, even with the discount that the manufacturer has offered."

Tags: Cancer | Menís Health | Pharmaceuticals | UK News

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