Prostate cancer drug approved for routine use before chemotherapy

In collaboration with the Press Association


Prostate cancer cells
Image via LRI Electron Microscopy Unit
A prostate cancer cell

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has approved the drug abiraterone for men with advanced prostate cancer, who have not yet had chemotherapy. 

The drug - developed by UK scientists - can delay the disease’s progression, help to prolong life, and provide a better quality of life with less fatigue and pain. It has been available across the UK for men after chemotherapy since 2012.

"This is very welcome news for men with prostate cancer" - Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK

Today’s decision – a reversal of NICE’s previous ruling – brings England and Wales in line with Scotland, which approved the drug for men pre-chemotherapy last year.

NICE was able to rule favourably after the drug’s manufacturers, Janssen, provided new data showing the drug’s cost-effectiveness, and agreed a discount price for the NHS.

Under the discount, the NHS will pay for the first 10 months of treatment. For people who remain on treatment for more than 10 months, Janssen will cover the drug’s cost from the 11th month until the end of treatment.

Professor Malcolm Mason, Cancer Research UK’s prostate cancer expert, said it was “a great development for prostate cancer patients.”

“We’re delighted to hear that NICE has approved abiraterone to be used before chemotherapy for men with prostate cancer that has spread and has come back after their first line hormone therapy.

“Cancer Research UK funded the research that led to the discovery and development of this drug, which was only possible thanks to the generosity of our public supporters, making this a true UK success story.”

Until now, the drug was only available to patients in England before chemotherapy through the Cancer Drugs Fund (CDF), and was the second most requested medicine on the fund.

Today’s approval means that drug can now also been removed from the Fund - which is the process of being reformed - and paid for routinely by the NHS.

Professor Heather Payne, Consultant in Clinical Oncology at University College Hospital, London, said: "Abiraterone has been shown not only to significantly extend life expectancy but is well tolerated and enables these patients to live a better quality of life.

“This is very welcome news for men with prostate cancer, their families and the doctors and nurses who care for them.”

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer in men. Across the UK, 47,300 men are diagnosed with prostate cancer each year, and it's the second most common cause of cancer deaths.