NICE recommends prostate cancer drug abiraterone

In collaboration with the Press Association

The National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE) has recommended that prostate cancer drug abiraterone (Zytiga) be made available on the NHS.

Abiraterone - which was developed by Cancer Research UK funded scientists at The Institute of Cancer Research - can extend the lives of some patients with advanced prostate cancer that has returned after chemotherapy.

NICE had previously rejected the drug for use on the NHS because it felt it did not offer value for money at the price set by the manufacturer, Janssen.

This meant that the drug was only available to patients through the Cancer Drugs Fund in England.

But after Janssen submitted additional information about the drug to NICE, the treatment will now be made routinely available for patients on the NHS.

Abiraterone is already available through the NHS in Wales. It is not available in Scotland, where the Scottish Medicines Consortium turned down the drug based on cost. But it will be reconsidered later in the year thanks to Jannsen submitting new data about the drug.

The decision from NICE comes after Cancer Research UK and others called on the organisation to reconsider its original response, and urged Janssen to lower the price of the drug.

Abiraterone can be used in combination with two other drugs, prednisone or prednisolone, to treat men with castration-resistant metastatic prostate cancer that has not responded to previous treatment with a docetaxel-containing therapy.

NICE chief executive Sir Andrew Dillon said: "During the consultation on the draft guidance Janssen, the manufacturer of the drug, submitted further information for the committee to consider.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"We are very pleased that Janssen's submission to our consultation means that we are able to produce draft guidance recommending abiraterone - it is an effective treatment, potentially extending life by more than three months, and it also allows patients to be treated at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."

Dr Harpal Kumar, chief executive of Cancer Research UK, said: "This is wonderful news for patients with advanced prostate cancer and, in part, this U-turn is down to the public's disappointment at the initial refusal.

"People's donations have allowed Cancer Research UK to fund the discovery and early development of abiraterone - now they've also helped to ensure prostate cancer patients get access to this important treatment by making their voices heard."

The draft guidance has been passed on to consultees, who have the opportunity to appeal against it. NHS bodies will make funding decisions locally until NICE issues its final guidance on the drug.

Dr Kumar added: "Patients must get access to the most effective cancer treatments quickly. The government needs to push on with its 'early access' scheme, so patients can have treatments with exceptional early trial results sooner. And the pharmaceutical industry needs to price in a realistic way, based on the potential benefit of the treatment."

Because Cancer Research UK helped discover abiraterone, the charity will receive royalties as a result of it being used in the clinic. These royalties will then be reinvested in further cancer research.

Copyright Press Association 2012