NHS to offer women drug to prevent breast cancer

Up to 300,000 women at risk of breast cancer could take a drug that prevents the disease, it was announced today.

The drug anastrozole is now off patent and was approved yesterday by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency as preventive treatment.

Today NHS England said it would be backing its use by post-menopausal women at moderate to high risk of breast cancer – hoping it will prevent about 2,000 cases of cancer a year.

The organisation expects about 25% of these women to agree to take the drug and says this will save about £15 million in treatment costs.

Chief executive Amanda Pritchard said: “This is the first drug to be repurposed through a world-leading new programme to help us realise the full potential of existing medicines in new uses to save and improve more lives on the NHS.

“Thanks to this initiative, we hope that greater access to anastrozole could enable more women to take risk-reducing steps if they’d like to, helping them live without fear of breast cancer.”

Baroness Delyth Morgan, chief executive at Breast Cancer Now, said: “The extension of anastrozole’s licence to cover it being used as a risk-reducing treatment is a major step forward that will enable more eligible women with a significant family history of breast cancer, to reduce their chance of developing the disease.”

Dame June Raine, Chief Executive of the MHRA, said: “This innovative Programme is essential to support and advance research into medicines that might be repurposed, increase access to life-saving medicines and, ultimately, improve patients’ lives.

“The MHRA welcomes applications for repurposed medicines and encourages early dialogue from companies or developers considering this.”

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